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Monday, December 31, 2012

End of The Year

The end of a year seems to be a time for reflection and self-examination. What have I accomplished in the past year? Was it worthwhile enough to justify my existence? What mistakes did I make? What changes do I need to make? What are my goals for the next twelve months?
While I seldom make a list of formal resolutions, I do usually have at least a mental list of things I hope to accomplish. One of my goals for 2012 was to read the Bible through in the NIV. I started at Genesis 1 and read straight through, finishing with Revelation 22 on December 29. There are benefits to reading large portions in order rather than short portions at random. But I also felt that it was like gulping down a large meal without taking time to chew. I enjoyed that for one year but I think I'll go back to taking smaller bites in 2013.
The quiet, slow winter season when daylight is in short supply and outdoor work pauses, is a good time to do some things I don't have time for in other seasons. So my year always starts with a to-do list that includes scrapbooking the previous year's pictures and getting things ready to file taxes. Other things on the list will vary depending on the latest new ideas and what seems most important. At the moment, I have some writing projects in progress and fabric waiting to become curtains.
The #1 job for 2013 is compiling and editing a book on The History and Development of the Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship. I am doing this at the request of the Mid-Atlantic ministerial body. I asked each congregation to assign a writer to submit a history of their congregation and biographical sketches of past and present leaders. Things have been coming in and I have enough to keep me busy for several weeks. I hope the missing pieces keep trickling in fast enough to keep me going so I can finish by the end of February.
Of course, between writing, sewing, scrapbooking, and whatever else gets in my way, I will also be doing all the usual housekeeping, babysitting, and volunteer work. I don't have time to get cabin fever. I could do without snow but I wonder when I'd get some of these things done if there was no winter season.
So I shall start out bravely tomorrow morning and plow through 2013, hoping to accomplish enough to justify my existence and be granted permission to continue. I need more time if I'm going to finish some other things I started that are simmering on the back burner.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ephrata Cloister Chorus

This is my first attempt to create a music video. You will easily see it was done by an amateur but I hope you will take a minute to watch at least part of it. It's a project that ran away with me.

We got a turntable to plug into the computer and convert our old vinyl recordings to digital files which can then be put on an MP3 player. Since we didn't have plans for Christmas Day I thought I would spend the day converting some records (which are under conviction). I did two albums and then did a 45-rpm of music from the Ephrata Cloister. I bought that record when I was a teenager and had not heard it for many years. It is, of course, sung in German, but the English translation is printed on the dust jacket. I thought it would be helpful to have the English words with the music. Since I had never attempted something like this before it was a learning experience and took me a whole day to get it finished. And now I see my proofreader missed a couple typos which you will just have to overlook.
The chorus sings one verse each of seven songs and the entire video lasts 8-10 minutes. If you can't handle the whole thing, listening to even one song will give you a taste of eighteenth century music. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 2012

 December 22, 2012
 The food
 Boys and their toys
 Grayson's first Christmas/birthday
 Grayson's first birthday will be Jan. 5, 2013 but was celebrated while we were all together.
It was a piece of cake!
 And more presents!
The youngest person present was Dale's new foster baby, Kyreese. He slept through most of the day but I did catch him once at the end of the day with his eyes open.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Feasting Season

When I woke up Friday morning there was an old lady in my bed. Horrors! It was me!!
I decided I would be allowed to do anything I pleased that day to soften the blow of being an official card-carrying Senior Citizen. What could be more fun that strolling through a cemetery looking for some missing persons? It was a relatively mild day with bright sunshine and no wind. Perfect for cemetery stomping. I went back to the city cemetery I visited last week and picked up the list of names I had left for them to locate in the files. Armed with the section and plot numbers, I set out to find my people. A very helpful custodian soon followed me out there and kindly led me around to all the places on my list. I came away with only one small bit of new information and the rest was negative progress---the rest of the people I'm hunting are not there.
The second cemetery I visited was a total failure. No one was in the office and finding anyone was hopeless without a list or map. I drove through slowly but didn't waste any time walking around looking. After I got home I contacted someone who has done a lot of work there and learned where to find the cemetery records.
I got groceries on the way home. It was nearly 1 p.m. and I hadn't had any lunch. Since it was my birthday I was allowed to treat myself to a sour cream and onion soft pretzel from the snack bar in the grocery store. Better than birthday cake!
In the evening we went to Cracker Barrel for supper---on a gift card. Cracker Barrel is one of my favorite restaurants. I like the atmosphere as much as the food. Leroy wasn't hungry because he had eaten too much of the office lunch so he just got a small meal. I had a full meal of rainbow trout. It was great! Afterwards we went to Cabelas and I enjoyed looking at all the mounted animals on display. It turned out to be a good birthday after all in spite of the high number.
Tomorrow Leroy will roll his numbers but he's always four ahead of me so that helps mine sound better. I'll make some special things to eat but we'll save our second gift card for some other time. He'll be just as happy to eat at home since I'm making fried oysters. And on Saturday we have a Christmas dinner to look forward to. It's feasting season!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Old Sweet Songs

I can do it! When Gene and Amy were here on Saturday they installed the software on my computer and showed me how to convert my old vinyl records to digital files. It really is not that hard but I'm glad I didn't have to figure it out myself. The younger generation can do it in less than half the time it would have taken me to set it up. Once it was ready to go I could simply click my way through the process and viola! I'm hearing music I haven't heard for many years.
It is going to take awhile to play and convert all my old records. At the moment, I am working on the three-record set of Handel's The Messiah by the London Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra. Leroy gave it to me for Christmas back in the 70s. He didn't have much appreciation for it in those days but knew I loved it. He didn't know anything about the artists but thought the name "has enough big words in it that it should be good." It was! And it was one of the best and most treasured gifts he ever gave me. After we no longer had a record player I always found it on the radio somewhere at Christmas but I haven't listened to the records for many years.
Some of the records are vintage 60s, bought before I was married. While I am writing this I am listening to one that we used to play on almost every date--an instrumental of The Old Sweet Songs. Naturally, there are some scratches on these very old recordings and some cracking is reproduced in the conversion process but at least we can listen to them again.
Eventually I'll get all the records done that our children listened to when they were growing up. I'm sure they will bring back a lot of memories. And when I finish the records I also have a cassette player to convert a stack of cassettes to digital files. It could take most of the winter to get everything done but then it can all be stored on an MP3 player and we can hear all the old sweet songs again.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


December is birthday month around here. There are some distinct advantages to having birthdays three days apart. My husband has never forgotten my birthday because he knows it is just before his own. Another benefit (for tightwads like me) is that we can save money by going out to eat once and celebrating our birthdays together. Well yes, we usually have a gift card or two lying around we use so it doesn't actually cost us  any money but the second card can be saved for our anniversary. We can also buy joint gifts for "our" birthday and save even more by combining it with "our" Christmas gift. This year we bought ourselves a new stereo system to replace the 21-year old model we had. Only the radio worked on that one anymore. We bought a cassette player and turntable which will plug into the computer and transfer all our CDs, cassettes, and old vinyl records to an MP3 player--if I can figure out how to use all that modern technology.
One thing we did NOT do together for our birthdays is turn 65. He did that four years ahead of me and I was happy to let him blaze the trail through Medicare and Social Security benefits. But now this year I have arrived at the magical age and we changed our Medicare coverage to an Advantage plan. My coverage began on Dec. 1 and includes prescription coverage. I ran out of one of my prescriptions on Nov. 29 but (tightwad that I am) figured I won't die if I wait two more days to fill it. Why pay full price if I can get it with my card two days later? So I tapped into my Medicare account the first day it became available.
I have arrived! I am a card-carrying Senior Citizen and will be for the rest of my days.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trust But Verify

"Trust but verify." That's the #1 rule in genealogy and history research. Published books are secondary sources and very helpful but they can also contain errors. The information in secondary sources needs to be verified by a primary source such as a will, deed, gravestone, or other documents. Never assume. I thought I knew that. But I stumbled and it cost me a lot of wasted time and expense.
I have been working for more than a year to trace the descendants of 1754 immigrant Ulrich Burkholder of Bowmansville. He was the oldest brother of my ancestor, Christian. He is often confused with another Ulrich Burkholder who immigrated in 1732. I decided to trace the first four generations of the Bowmansville Ulrich in an attempt to resolve some of the confusion. It has never been done and was quite a task.
Ulrich had six children but only named three of them in his will. Finding the other three involved some work but eventually I had all six names from primary sources. They were Elizabeth, John, Peter, Anna, Maria, and Christian. Some of their families were easier to trace than others. Christian moved to Canada and left the best paper trail.
Elizabeth's husband, John Bowman, was one of the executors of Ulrich's estate. John Bowmans are as thick as flies around Bowmansville. But I found John and Elizabeth Bowman buried in the oldest cemetery in Bowmansville. (It was orgionally a family cemetery but the  Pine Grove Mennonite Church was later built in front of it.) John and Elizabeth had nice readable stones showing they were born in the 1760s. The death date on John's stone took me to his estate papers which gave me the names of his children. Tracing his descendants took me to Maryland, Mifflin County, Ohio, and other states in the Midwest. I have no idea how much time I spent tracing them but eventually I filled in all the blanks and was satisfied that the genealogy was complete.
THEN I showed it to another genealogist and he said, "But I thought her name was Elizabeth Clopper." Whoa!! He looked through his things and found a deed which proved he was right. There were two John Bowmans the same age married to Elizabeths. I had traced the wrong family. He was able to point me to another source for the right John and Elizabeth and their children but I am starting over. What went wrong? I assumed and did not verify Elizabeth's maiden name was Burkholder.
The sad thing is all the effort I put into tracing the wrong family. The good thing is that the mistake was caught before it was published in January. We have postponed publication until April to give me time to get it right. And I hope I have learned my lesson. Trust but verify and don't assume anything.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 is behind us and I am thankful for an unscheduled weekend to unwind and relax.
We have spent the majority of our Thanksgiving holidays with Leroy's family. But the extended Stauffer family has grown so large it is a huge job to have two big dinners just a month apart. Their Thanksgiving dinner has been downsized the past few years. When I didn't hear any plans for this year I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do something different. We invited our children and grandchildren, my siblings (and spouses), and two nephews (and children) who live nearby to come for a Burkholder Thanksgiving dinner.
The food was served caffeteria style on the pool table just like we used to do at my mom's house.
We can seat 32 at our folding tables and all but one were in use.

The day after Thanksgiving the women in our family (daughter and daughters-in-law) got together at Amy's house for our annual Christmas cookie bake. We baked some there and also brought some we had baked in advance.
Mine were all baked when I got there but the cut out Sugar Cookies needed to be decorated. That is always more fun if grandchildren help. Lauren, Kaden, and Arianna stuck with me until we were finished.
Both days were lots of fun. But I've been running at full speed the past two weeks and need to take a break. My calendar has only one thing on it for next week, for a change. That's good. Because just one week from today it will be December and we all know what that means.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Someone to Thank

The "holidays" are upon us again.  We have spent most of our Thanksgivings with Leroy's family but this year we are doing something different and having some of my family. The tables in the basement are set for thirty, the turkey is roasting, and my anticipation level is rising. In thinking about what I am thankful for, I find I have too many blessings to name. Here's one of my favorite songs that mentions the most important and basic ones.

There is Someone who daily my needs doth supply,
These good things don't just happen, there's Someone on high,
'Tis His mercy and grace that allows me to live;
He deserves all the thanks I can give.

There are many who do not believe in the Lord,
Say He never existed to create the world;
Oh, how empty their hearts and how lonely their days
With no Jesus to thank and to praise.

Greatest gift that the Father has granted to me,
Is the gift of salvation that sets my soul free.
Oh, I never can thank Him enough for His love,
As he watches from heaven above.

I have Someone to thank for every new day,
I have Someone to thank for the gifts on life's way;
He's the One who expects and One who accepts
All the thanks that I feel each day.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Our Sunday school lesson last Sunday was on Peter taking the Gospel to the gentiles. He needed a special vision from God before he understood that God had always intended to include people of all nations in the plan of salvation. One of the aims of the lesson was to challenge us to think about ourselves and if we are failing to reach out to some classes of people because we think they are hopeless.
Our nephew was scheduled to teach the men's class at his church so he decided to conduct an experiment before church. He dressed in scruffy clothes and walked back and forth along the road by the church holding a sign that said, "Help! Unemployed. Need food for children."
Lots of people passed him on their way to church. Of those who turned in and parked at his church, ONE man walked out and asked what he could do to help him. When it was time for church to start he went inside, changed clothes, and joined in the service.
As he taught the men's class he kept referring to "that homeless man" walking along the road that morning. Yes, most of them had seen him. No, they had not done anything about it. Just before the class was dismissed he confessed, "that homeless man was me." He said it was worth every bit to see the looks on their faces.
Gotcha! It's easy to sit in a Sunday school class and talk about reaching out to all classes of people and agree that's what we should do. But it is something else to actually SEE someone in need and DO something about it.
Reality check. We don't drive that stretch of road on our way to church but what would we have done if we had? Would we have been a Good Samaritan or just passed by on the other side?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Medicare Maze

I will soon reach the magical age when I am eligible for Medicare. I knew for years this day was coming but now it is here and it's time to make some decisions. I have already procrastinated several months but time is running out. I need to settle on something this month for my coverage to begin on December 1.
Why do they make it so complicated? There are PPO, HMO, Supplement, and Drug Plans to choose from. And multiple carriers for each of those to boot. I have to take into consideration the monthly premiums, co-pays, in-network pharmacies and doctors, prescriptions I'm taking. Then too, I need to consider my physical condition and projected needs for the next year.
After doing some homework and having a consultation with an impartial advisor, I think I've decided on something and am ready to sign up. It's scary because I'll be locked in for a year. But if I don't like it I can change to something else next year. That's the exciting part. I get to do this all over again next year. Each year we need to look at the changes in the plans and/or our medical conditions and figure out what is the best fit for the coming year. Maybe it won't be as hard to decide the second year.
I remember my aunt (who was in her 80s) saying, "This getting old isn't for wimps." I guess I'm just beginning to learn what she meant.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moving On

It's the day after the election and I am glad to have all that fuss behind us. In the end, gobs of money were spent and nothing changed. We have the same President and opposite parties in control of the House and Senate which means it will be politics as usual in Washington. I suppose the money that was spent on advertising put food on some people's tables but to me it seems like it was a big ado for nothing.
Now that all the election is over we can turn our attention to something more positive---like giving  thanks for all our blessings. I'll start by being thankful we were only out of electric for three days in Hurricane Sandy and our lives have returned to normal. Many people are not so fortunate and will be dealing with the after-effects of the storm for a long time.
A side benefit of the hurricane is that it blew most of the leaves down and away. Normally Leroy is cleaning up leaves every week until Thanksgiving. The nor'easter that is due to arrive tonight will probably dispose of most of the remaining leaves.
This part of the world is starting to look like winter with the leaves down. I cut off the mums this afternoon which gives the flower beds a bare look too. Life has moved indoors and I'm already started on my list of things to do this winter. Each season has a beauty and benefits of its own and I'm ready to move on into the next season.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Report

The big monster storm called Hurricane Sandy is over--at least in these parts. There are many people all along the eastern seaboard who are still suffering and will have a lot of work to clean up. In comparison, we were whipped lightly.
The worst part of the storm here was the wind which blew down a lot of trees and wires. The eight inches of rain that was predicted amounted to only 1.5 inches here so this area was spared from flooding. The wind and rain increased Monday afternoon and by 5 p.m. Leroy was glad to be home. He got his generator ready to go after supper and went down to the garage for the gas can when the lights went out. I had managed to get a shower about two minutes before the power went off.
The wind just roared all night and I didn't sleep much. I wasn't afraid or worried but I just am not used to that much noise at night. The power was off until about 3 this afternoon. That was almost three full days.
After Hurricane Irene last summer and the heavy snow in October, both of which left us without power for days, Leroy got a generator that is big enough to run the furnace and pump water. It sat in the garage all this time without even being started. But it sure was nice to have now. It wasn't like having regular electric because we couldn't run everything at once. But we could at least function. I didn't have to sit in the dark and we could wash dishes, get showers, and keep warm.
I passed the time by crocheting. I started on Monday and the thing is close to half finished. It kept me from going crazy but I am ready to do something else! I'll start by cooking supper (on the stove instead of just warming something in the microwave) and then go out in the big world this evening. I am scheduled to be at a book signing tonight. It could have come at a worse time but I am ready to get my life back.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wedding of the Year

Last evening we attended the wedding of my nephew, Hans Burkholder, and Sharon Nolt. They are both in their thirties and well-matched professional people. Hans is a surgeon in Alaska and Sharon manages a company on Wall Street in New York City. She grew up in Lancaster County where her family still lives so the wedding was held there in the Neffsville Mennonite Church.
It was a beautiful wedding, classy and yet simple with his father (my brother) officiating at the ceremony.

The reception was in the Palm Court of the Hilton Double Tree Resort (formerly Willow Valley) at Willow Street.

The meal was large and tasty. Instead of a wedding cake, they served two kinds of Whoopie Pies. That added a bit of a PA Dutch touch to the meal.
Hans and Sharon are honeymooning in Costa Rica. She is moving across the country to join him in Alaska. Hans has worked many long years to reach the place he is today. We didn't know if we would ever see this day, but now we have. The wisest man who ever lived said a good wife is worth more than rubies. Congratulations to Hans and his better-than-rubies wife!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Indian Summer

We had our first frost about ten days ago which ended the garden. The mums are still blooming nicely but all the other flowers are done for this year. The dahila bulbs are stored for the winter but we still need to dig the canas before the ground freezes. But this week the threat of frost and freezing seems to be somewhere off in the distant future as we enjoy a whole week of sunny warm Indian Summer weather.
We spent the weekend in Ohio with our daughter and her family. The drive across the mountains was lovely with bright sunshine bringing out the shimmering colors of the red, yellow, and orange leaves. Unfortunately, the Turnpike is not photo friendly so I could only admire the beauty of nature and savor each moment before it passed.
This morning I went out to try capture a little of the autumn around me before it fades. I'm not a great photographer and my pictures are never as good as the real thing, but here are a few.
Our house from across the field with the woods behind it.
Along the way.
A little frost doesn't faze these little beauties.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dead Sea Scrolls

The world debut exhibition, Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times , was on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia from May 12-October 14. The exhibition was created by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) from the collections of the Israel National Treasures and produced by Discovery Times Square and The Franklin Institute.Gene and Amy took us to see it last night, the final day of the exhibition.
The exhibit featured one of the largest collections of the 2000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls ever displayed in North America as well as a three-ton stone from the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It included more than 500 items from the biblical era on display alongside the famed scrolls, including many newly discovered Holy Land artifacts. Objects included remains of religious articles, weapons of war, stone carvings, textiles and beautiful mosaics along with everyday household items such as jewelry and ceramics.
Hailed as the most important archaeological find of the 20th century, the story behind the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is almost as interesting as the scrolls themselves.
The first cache of scrolls was discovered in 1947 when a Bedouin shepherd casually tossed a rock into a cave and heard a pot shatter. Over the next eight years, archaeologists excavated a series of caves and found thousands of parchment fragments that included the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible.
While the scribes of the scrolls are unknown, the ancient text shed light on the language used in the Bible, much of which remains unchanged to this day. 
The fragments of the scrolls were displayed inside a circular case. The place was very full and ringed with a line of people that inched forward slower than a snail's pace.


I was amazed at the precise hand lettering on the scrolls. The writing on several phylacteries was so tiny I and perfect it was unbelievable even though I was seeing it with my own eyes.

The men who copied these holy writings on scrolls took their work very seriously. The most complete scroll is the book of Isaiah. A comparison of this scroll with the book of Isaiah we have in our Bible showed only a few minor differences in punctuation. Here is tangible proof that the Word of God has not changed in 2000 years. The way people explain and interpret the Scriptures may change but God's Word has not and will never change. God said what He meant and meant what He said. It's a solid foundation we can build our lives and eternal destinies upon.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Walking a two-mile trail all summer has paid off. It helped me drop ten pounds and is a good time for meditation. I've come up with outlines for stories or figured out how to handle a Sunday school lesson I was scheduled to teach.
 The changing seasons adds some variety to the trail. In the spring even the first shoots of skunk cabbage are a welcome sight. Then we move on to little wildflowers and lime green baby leaves on the trees. This summer a bird flew above me, scolding as it chased me away from where I assume it had a nest. In the middle of summer I walk before the sun heats up the world, sometimes as early as 6:30. After school starts I wait until after 8:30 when the school buses have finished their morning rounds. The scenery along the trail is changing again as the leaves are beginning to color. Some fields have been harvested and the crops that are still standing have turned brown.
Every couple weeks I take a trash bag along and pick up the trash so at least that part of the roadside is free of litter. I don't walk in the winter months so in the spring I took a garbage bag to pick up the winter's trash. Since then a grocery bag has been big enough if I do it every couple weeks. I don't know who is tossing all that trash but it is amazing how much accumulates in a couple weeks.
As I walked this morning I spied something I thought was trash but it turned out to be a fallen leaf. That set my mind going. That leaf grew to hang on a tree, not lie on the ground. So why isn't it trash when it's not on a tree? What makes some things trash and others not?
The things I picked up as trash were made of glass, paper, metal, plastic, and Styrofoam. They are not biodegradable. Imagine what would happen if trees grew plastic leaves. How would we dispose of centuries of plastic leaves?
The things God made are designed to support biological life cycles and part of that includes being biodegradable. The leaf served its purpose while it was on the tree and when it falls to the ground it serves another purpose. We rake leaves on our lawns so they don't smother and kill the grass, but the leaves that fall on the forest floor compost and turn into rich dark soil.
It's been said that God doesn't make junk. He doesn't make trash either. Humans are the messy ones. We make things that aren't biodegradable and worse yet, toss them out the windows of our vehicles. I can't keep the whole township clean but I can keep my trail clean. And if you're nosey enough to look, I want you to know that's where the brown glass bottle in the junk barrel in my garage came from.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I have two sisters. Whenever one of us has a birthday we have a Sister's Day. The birthday girl picks the activity. We've done all kinds of things from taking a trip to Mexico to quilting to just sitting and talking. For my birthday this year I decided I want to go to the cabin for a weekend and just loaf. It seems whenever we go up there we work our tails off maintaining and improving the place. I wanted to go and just loaf for a change like other people do when they go to a cabin. Since my birthday is just before Christmas and that is a busy time of the year, I chose to go early. This was the only weekend it seemed to work for all of us. 
We usually go up Friday night but since we were just going to loaf this time we didn't leave until Saturday morning. Here's how it looks when we loaf for a weekend.

Cleaning out the spring
Labeling envelopes
Weed whacking

Grading book reports

The quality of this picture makes it appear we may have been a bit nervous about taking time off from loafing to eat.

And some bona fide loafing on Sunday afternoon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Canada Trip

We're home again and another of the trips on our wish list has been completed. We have been saying for years that someday we want to go to eastern Ontario to see where Leroy's grandmother, Mary Brubacher, was born and lived until her family moved to Iowa in 1901. She was a teenager by then and that's where she met and married Eli Stauffer. He had moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa with his family when he was a preschooler. Eli and Mary had three children when they moved back to Pennsylvania and the rest of their children, including Leroy's father, were born there.
Some of Mary's siblings returned to Ontario when they left Iowa so Leroy has relatives there today. His parents used to go up to visit his dad's aunts, uncles, and cousins, but Leroy never went with them. All the aunts, uncles, and cousins are gone now but Leroy has second cousins there. After asking a bit we were put in touch with Clare Frey (a historian in the area) who could show us all the places we wanted to see and helped us find some of the second cousins. We learned long ago that you will see a lot more if you have a local guide and that certainly was true this time. On our own, we would not have been able to find and see everything we did in one day.
On Friday, our family history day, Clare showed us the places Leroy's grandmother and several other of his ancestors lived. This is the farm the Brubacher family left when they moved to Iowa. Of course, there have been some changes to the place, such as the silo which would not have been there in 1901.
Clare also took us to quite a few cemeteries where Leroy's ancestors are buried. His great-grandfather, Jacob Brubacher (Mary's father), returned to Ontario and died there. Clare knew which of Leroy's ancestors was buried in a certain cemetery and could point out their stones without much of a search.
We also made a quick stop at the Mennonite Archives in Waterloo to pick up a file of Burkholder information I had ordered. The purpose of this trip was to find Leroy's ancestry but somehow the Burkholders kept sticking their noses into it and I couldn't ignore them. Our first stop in Ontario (Thursday afternoon) was the First Mennonite Church in Kitchener were Christian Burkholder and some of his descendants are buried. Christian (the son of Ulrich Burkholder of Bowmansville) moved his family to Canada in 1818. The Mennonite Archives has copies of the family register pages in Christian's 1805 family Bible. I stumbled upon that information the week before we left and it was a must-have. At least one of those pages will be included in the Burkholder genealogy I am preparing for publication in the Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage magazine.
Saturday was our visiting day. Leroy wanted to visit some of his second cousins but did not know who they were or where to find them. We got one or two names and that's all we needed. They knew who his relatives were and would invite others to come too. One of these places was Earl and Joyce Martin. Joyce's grandmother was a sister to Leroy's grandmother. Joyce also invited her mother, Vera, and daughter Romayne. Although she spells it with a y instead of an i, the name is pronounced the same. It is not often that two Romaines are at the same place at the same time.
On this trip we also visited all the Canadians who had been on the same tour to Israel we took four years ago as well as some other people we knew. We stayed in private homes three nights, winding up at Howard and Barbara Bean at Tavistock. We went to their church Sunday morning and then headed toward home.
We drove two hours Sunday afternoon and spent the rest of the day seeing Niagara Falls. We walked around the Canadian side before we crossed the border and then took a long hike from our motel to the American side of the falls. After dark we drove to Goat Island from which we could see both falls. We've seen the falls several times but this was the first time we saw the colored lights at night.
On Monday morning we angled southeast toward home, stopping to visit friends and relatives at two places along the way. It was good to see their parts of the world, but when we left the last place at 6:30 we knew we still had a three-hour drive ahead of us.
We arrived home at 9:45 p.m. Monday, tired but very satisfied with the trip. We had achieved our goals of finding relatives, seeing family history sites, and visiting with friends. It was one of the least expensive trips we have ever taken as everywhere we went people wanted to feed us and/or give us a room for the night. If you can "Mennonite Your Way," that's the way to go!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Family Pow Wow

Why are some days so hum drum usual and other days packed to the gills with more stuff than a person can possibly do in a day? Yesterday was one of the latter. It seemed like everyone suddenly realized the summer is ending and planned outdoor activities before it gets cold. The problem was that everyone planned their stuff for the same day and we couldn't do everything. We wound up choosing a couple things and cutting all of them a bit short in order to cram as many things into the day as possible.
We started the day at Myerstown East End Days. That is an annual event in which all the businesses on the east end of Myerstown band together with special activities and lots of good food. With the perfect weather this year, the size of the crowd swelled to a record number. The Amish begin the activities on Saturday morning with a breakfast which benefits their parochial schools. It is a real feast with fresh-from-the fryer homemade donuts and the works. We decided to skip the breakfast this year because there were two other eating events in the day.
After paying our respects at the monstrous community yard sale and other East End things, we headed for the next event. We were in time for the grilled hamburgers and homemade ice cream at Stauffer Heritage Day. Again, we could have spent more time there but after four hours it was time to move on to the next thing.
Our family gathered at a little private campground for a chicken barbq. The chicken was smelling good when we arrived at 4 p.m. By 5:45 everyone was there and we devoured the finger-lickin'good stuff. The air got quite chilly after the sun went down and the campfire felt good. I could hardly drag myself away from the warm fire and family fellowship but at 9 p.m. I admitted defeat. The clock was just not going to stand still and another day was coming, ready or not. So we folded up our chairs and crept home.
It is such a blessing to have a family who has grown up to like each other after all. We could peacefully discuss future plans and come to an agreement without anyone going away upset. Thirty-five or forty years ago when sibling rivalry reigned I could not imagine this day. I'm glad I lived long enough to see it become reality. My children have all become sensible adults. Is that a miracle or what? :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Green Things

It's been awhile since I posted a progress report on Leroy's tractor-building project. That doesn't mean nothing was happening, just that progress was slow. He finally finished the assembly, which means he has figured out how to put the thing together.
On Saturday he tore it all apart again so he can paint the pieces. He took some pictures first in case he doesn't remember where a piece belongs when he is ready to put it back together. He's been doing a little painting each evening this week. Here are a couple pictures of the painting process.
The gray is the primer and the fan is turning yellow.
This morning he inspected the green things he painted last evening. The weather this week has been perfect for this project and he wants to get it done before it gets cool. Then he can move back indoors to reassemble the tractor. That should not take as many years as it took to figure out how to build it. When he is done he will have a miniature John Deere unstyled B with a Novo engine that has the sound of a real putt-putt.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Audience

We tried something new today. Several years ago (probably more than I think) a small congregation near Quakertown joined our conference of churches. We learned to know some of their ordained men when they came to preach for us but we had never been to their church.
This summer we were asked to teach their adult classes one Sunday each month. We agreed to start when the new Sunday school year began in September. They said we shall come on the second Sunday of the month. That was today.
We left  home at 7:30 this morning in order to give us plenty of time to find the church. It was a beautiful day to make the drive and we enjoyed the day. It took us one hour and twenty minutes to get there. Next time we won't need to leave quite that early.
I knew this was a small church and that is why they were asking for teaching help, but I didn't realize HOW small it is. Last Sunday their attendance was 27 but with the visitors today the crowd swelled to 35. I had nine ladies in my class. I'm looking forward to learning to know them. With such a small class it shouldn't take too long to learn all their names. I suppose the class of men Leroy taught was about the same size.
Once in awhile I had a year off but I have been teaching the ladies class at our church for most of 38 years. I heard somewhere that if you want people to listen to what you have to say you either have to keep learning new things or find a new audience. After 38 years of teaching at the same place, I think they must be getting tired of me. Today I found a new audience.

Friday, August 31, 2012


This year our church started a new method of outreach within the local area. We're taking a turn every couple months to serve lunch at the Food Bank in Lebanon. We signed up to help serve today and it was an interesting experience.
Seven people were already working when we got there at 10:30. It took all of us to get the food ready by noon. We served Italian bread, hamburger-noodle casserole, tossed salad, and banana pudding. When it was time to serve Leroy and I took care of pouring water and coffee. We made enough for 200 and served 130, so we had a lot of leftovers to find homes for.
As I was pouring water and watching the people eat, I wondered what the circumstances were in their lives that brought them to a soup kitchen for a free meal. There were people of all ages. Some were young mothers with several children (single moms perhaps?). There were old people, young men, and middle-aged people. Very few of them looked like homeless people who lived on the street. None of them were dirty and ragged but there were all kinds of outfits, tattoos, earrings, and you name it. As I watched one particularly "fashionable" young man I thought, no matter how they look on the outside every one of these people have an eternal soul that will live forever somewhere. It's hard to see past the sagging pants and long chains and remember you're seeing the face of Christ. Inasmuch . . .
Several people asked what church we are from and one man said he would like to come. He asked for directions and had me write it down. I told him I'll be looking for him. We need to go to foreign countries and minister to the needs of the physically and spiritually poor, but there are also plenty of people in need in our own back yard. Reach out and touch someone in your own neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Front Porch Reflections

As I was giving the front porch its annual end-of-summer cleaning this morning I couldn't help reflecting on the changes in that spot during the past 44 years. The only thing we had on the porch when we built this house was two cheap lawn chairs. Then tricycles began to appear and were soon followed by bikes. With six children in the house, the porch was so full of bikes you could hardly see the porch much less walk across it without banging into something.
Time passed and the bikes on the porch began to thin out, replaced by cars and pickups that lined the driveway. If everyone was at home the driveway was so full it looked like we had company. It seemed there was always at least one dead vehicle parked in front of the garage and numerous others in various stages of disrepair or use.
The lawn chairs that had been in the corner of the porch for years were moved to the back of the house to reside on the patio we had always dreamed of and finally got around to building. With no lawn chairs or bikes on the porch, it was so bare I added some things purely for decoration to make it look like someone is at home. Before that, the children were the only decoration we needed (or was safe) on a porch.
More time passed and the cars in the driveway began to leave as the children married. After the last one married last summer the driveway was empty for the first time in years. As empty as the upstairs which was once crammed with five boys and their stuff.
I know old people always say how short forty years is and I'm showing my age when I repeat it. But it's true. I remember telling a young mother about fifteen years ago how fast the years fly and her children will be grown and gone before she knows what happened. I could tell she did not want to hear that line and it was no comfort to her when she was in the thick of raising a family. The years seemed to stretch endlessly ahead. She has moved to another state and I don't see her anymore but I heard her oldest child got married this summer. If I could ask her now, I believe she would probably agree that twenty years is not as long as she thought it seemed when her children were small.
It really does not seem long ago that my porch was full of tricycles and bikes. Am I wishing for those days to return? Not at all! I didn't mind it when I was in it but I sure don't want to go back to those days of so much noise and dirt, mounds of laundry, and cooking huge amounts of food. I'm satisfied to have a couple old jugs, a few plants, and other things on my porch to give it a lived-in look. I like having grandchildren come and wish they would come more often. But keeping house for two is enough for an old lady. There is a time for everything---a time to have a porch full of bikes and a time to sit on the porch and watch the world go by.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Genuine Card-Carrying Senior

I'm a genuine Senior! I got a Medicare card last week without even asking for it. It's not effective yet but it's residing in my wallet, ready to go when the magic month arrives. I have the option of saying "no" but I'm not about to do that. Since Leroy got his card a couple years ago I am not totally clueless how Medicare works. But now that we can both enroll we are seriously considering making some changes to our health care program. And that's where the confusion begins.
Parts A & B are easy to understand and Leroy has had part D for prescriptions. I was able to go online, compare the prices and plans, and choose the one that best fits his needs. So I know how to proceed with that part for my prescriptions. Part C is the stickler. That must be purchased from a Medicare approved commercial insurance company. There is a great variety to choose from BUT they won't post their prices online so I can compare and choose like I did for Part D. Every time I try to get a price they ask for contact information so they can call for a consultation. I don't want to talk to a lot of salesman. I just want to see their prices.
Then a salesman called and said he could compare all the companies and tell me which is best for me. He was very helpful in explaining how the different options for Part C work and I almost got sucked in. Fortunately, my common sense kicked in and before I went very far I told him I want to talk it over with my husband first. The longer I thought about it the more sure I was that I do not want to do business with anyone who calls to sell me anything, especially someone representing a company I never heard of who lives in another state. How do I know they are not some sort of fraud or scam? They would be sure to ask for my Social Security number when filling out an application and that is a NO-NO!
Today I called Medicare and they gave me a number to call which will provide the same service for no charge. They will be able to tell me who has the best price for me.
Moral of the story: Never listen to a salesman and never, never give personal information to anyone on the phone. Identity theft is too common these days and a word to the wise is sufficient.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Failure List

I was going through my files and found this failure list I clipped from a newspaper years ago. If you're feeling like a failure today, take heart and keep trying.

  • Einstein was four years old before he could speak.
  • Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school and was considered "unpromising."
  • Beethoven's music teacher once said of him, "As a composer, he is hopeless."
  • When Thomas Edison was a youngster, his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. He was counseled to go into a field where he might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality.
  • F. W. Woolworth got a job in a dry goods store when he was 21, but his employer would not permit him to wait on customers because he "didn't have enough sense to close a sale."
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Boston Celtics Hall of Famer Bob Cousy suffered the same fate.
  • A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade and had to repeat it because he did not complete the tests that were required for promotion.
  • Babe Ruth struck out 1,300 times---a Major League record.
A person may make mistakes, but isn't a failure until he starts blaming someone else. We must believe in ourselves, and somewhere along the road, we must meet someone who sees greatness in us, expects it from us, and lets us kow it. It is the golden key to success.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dead Things Need Paint

I read something in the paper this morning that was food for thought while I went on my morning walk. A certain columnist asked readers to tell her how many lipsticks they owned. Those who responded reported they had anywhere from one to 179 lipsticks and lip gloss. The lady who said she has only one lipstick at a time and doesn't buy another until that one is used up is a rare exception and way below average. 
As I was walking I wondered how much money is tied up in 179 lipsticks. I have no idea because I have never bought a lipstick and do not know how much one would cost. Then I wondered how much the average woman spends per year on cosmetics to paint her face, eyes, nails, hair, and whatever women paint on their bodies. Again, I have no clue because I don't buy any of that stuff. My cosmetic department consists of chapstick, hair spray, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, and bath soap, which aren't really considered cosmetics.
Why do women think painting their bodies makes them more beautiful? Bright red lips and fingernails make a woman look like she was tearing into some bloody carcass. Bright red is not as fashionable as it once was but now we see all colors. When I see blue nails I wonder if the lady is suffering from frostbite. Orange nails make me think I should check the calendar. Maybe it's later than I think and it's Halloween.
By the same token, why do women think wearing huge circles or long dangly things in their ears makes them beautiful? I realize that some women had mothers who taught them that they are not fully dressed until they have put on their makeup and jewelry. They feel naked without it. Living a lifestyle that requires neither paint or jewelry has saved me a lot of time and money.
I am thankful I was blessed to have a mother who taught me that a woman's beauty comes from within. A woman who has the joy of the Lord in her heart and peace in her soul has a radiance that needs no enhancement and only soap and water to keep her face shining. A woman who is alive to God does not need paint to make her beautiful. Only dead things need paint. Thanks Mom!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Season of Good and Plenty

Ten dozen ears of corn that were living in their summer home in an Amish man's field at 7 a.m. this morning took up residence in their winter quarters in my freezer at 3:30 this afternoon. I have 71 packs of corn in the freezer and that should see us through the winter. That sounds like a lot but it really isn't. Since we're back to the original two we started with 45 years ago, my packs of corn have been reduced to one cup. Back in the days when we had six children (five of them male) eating at our table, I put six cups in a pack. The 71 packs I did today would only have made ten meals. Of course, I had a lot of hands to help husk then and today I worked completely alone. But I am not sorry I don't need six-cup packs anymore. I didn't mind it at the time but I am glad they are all able to take care of themselves now and do their own corn.
Leroy is picking up a bushel of peaches at the orchard on his way home from work tonight. They will be my next project. Most of them will become Fruit Slush. That is a mixture of peaches, pineapple tidbits, green and red seedless grapes, and bananas frozen in a syrup of pineapple and orange juice. Because Leroy is diabetic I omit the sugar some people add. The fruit juices sweeten it enough for our taste. We eat it as it is or I put it in the blender with a cup of yogurt to make smoothies.
Our garden used to cover about a third of an acre. It kept shrinking as the children married and moved away. With the condition of my back, we wouldn't have a garden at all anymore if Leroy didn't take an interest in it and see it gets done. It's nice to be able to go out to the garden and pick enough for a meal, but it is also possible to buy plenty of produce for canning and freezing. Anyone who cannot or does not want to garden can still find plenty of good quality produce for reasonable prices to preserve for the winter---at least in this part of the world.
Old Order Mennonites and Amish have switched from growing tobacco for a cash crop to raising produce. Their crops are sold at produce auctions in Lancaster, Lebanon, and Berks counties. The corn I got this morning was from an Amish man who takes his crop to the produce auction but he also takes private orders which can be picked up on his farm. It's a win-win situation. He is spared the bother of hauling it to the auction and I save time by not having to wait for it to be sold on the auction.
I raised a large garden, froze and canned huge quantities of food out of necessity when our family was at home. I cannot imagine the size of the grocery bill in those days if we had bought everything from the store. It cost enough for the things we could not raise when we used a gallon of milk and large loaf of bread every day. My grocery bills have shrunk to a reasonable size now but I still prefer home canned food to commercially produced products. It's a matter of taste. 
We have fresh corn, tomatoes, cabbage, and peaches  as the month begins. Apples will be coming shortly.  August is my favorite eating season, the season of good and plenty.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joint Efforts

I just finished listening to a speech Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough gave on architecture and history to the American Institute of Architects National Convention in Washington DC in May. He talked about the influence of European culture on architects and architecture in the United States. That may sound like a strange subject for the likes of me and he talks a lot about France that I know nothing about. But his perspective on history and what we get from studying it was well worth hearing.
In this speech David McCullough said, "Great works are done as joint efforts, not just joint with people who are present but those who came before us."
Think through that and you will have to admit it is true. The writer of the book of Romans said essentially the same thing. "None of us lives or dies to himself alone." (Romans 14:7) We are the product of all those who came before us and the influence of those living with us. 
McCullough said that the great cathederals in Europe, some of which took hundreds of years to construct, were great works of art but the architect worked jointly with the masons, sculptors, painters, and other skilled workers to produce them. The architect only designed the building which was then produced by joint efforts.
Think about the things you do or have done. How have others contributed to make it possible for you do accomplish what you did? The technology that makes is possible for me to write this blog was the work of more than one person. A teacher in high school taught me how to type. It is not morally wrong to feel a sense of accomplishment when we see a job successfully completed, but we need to remember that it was a joint effort. All those who came before and live around us contributed to the project in one way or another. Looking at it from that perspective makes me feel rather small.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Are You Writing Another Book?

As soon as a new book is published I am back to being asked the same old question everywhere I go, "Are you writing another book?" Since Aaron's Civil War hit the market last December the answer to that question has been "No. I'm just doing short stories and historical articles." The short stories are a series for children 6-8 and are being published in our church papers. I can do one of them in a day when it fits into my schedule. The historical articles are a different story.
Last fall I started tracing the first four generations of the descendants of Ulrich Burkholder. I got stuck and dropped it for a couple months. This spring I got a tip that was the breakthrough I needed to continue so I picked it up again. Developing a genealogy is an on-going process that takes months and/or years to complete. There are a few blanks that need to be filled in yet but I am getting close to completing it.
Ulrich Burkholder was born in Switzerland in 1737. He arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Phoenix on October 1, 1754 with his widowed mother and five siblings. He had two younger brothers, Peter and Christian. Peter later moved to Virginia and Christian became a well-known bishop in the Mennonite church in Lancaster County.
Ulrich settled in the "backwoods" of Lancaster County in the 1760s and married Anna Musselman. He was ordained minister for the Mennonite churches in the Muddy Creek area, which later became known as Bowmansville. His will indicates he had six children but mentions only three by name. Very little was known about Ulrich and Anna's children and no one ever troubled themselves to trace his descendants. Therein lay the problem.
Another Ulrich Burkholder immigrated on the ship Samuel in 1732, which was twenty-two years before Ulrich of Bowmansville arrived. The first immigrant Ulrich was married to Esther Sherer. They lived in Lancaster County but then moved northwest a bit into what is now Lebanon County. They lived there the rest of their lives. Their descendants moved south to Cumberland and Franklin counties and later some migrated to the Midwest. If someone from Franklin County has a Burkholder ancestor they are most likely a descendant of Ulrich and Esther, not Ulrich and Anna.
These two Ulrich Burkholders are constantly being confused. I've had more than one person tell me they are a descendant of the Bowmansville Ulrich when I know they are from the "other" Ulrich. I am hoping my outline of the first four generations of the descendants of Ulrich of Bowmansville will help resolve the confusion. When will it be finished? I don't know. The last blanks are the ones which are most difficult to find the information to fill. And as long as I'm working on it I can honestly answer the annoying question with "historical articles" even if I do start another book.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Sanctuary

When we built our house in 1968 we said someday we would add a patio behind the house. It didn't happen until 1986. Then we poured a concrete slab which was furnished with a picnic table and charcoal grill. Leroy said someday he wants to enclose it but I was satisfied with it as it was. But he has this thing about bugs flying around his head and kept alive the dream of enclosing the patio. It finally happened in 1995.
After it was finished I had to agree with Leroy that it was a big improvement over the open patio. The roof keeps it cooler and the screens keep the bugs out. My plants, which would have died in the direct sunlight, thrive there all summer.

My favorite seat is this hammock chair we got in Nicaragua in 2011. I often sit out there to watch the sun go down and the fireflies come out.

Yesterday I was sitting in this chair with my morning cup of coffee watching the world wake up. The neighbor's rooster was crowing and the birds were twittering their good mornings. It was so peaceful and I felt very blessed. By the time I went back in the house to get ready for church, I had already worshiped from the hammock pew in my patio sanctuary.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hope for PA Dutch Culture

With attendance waning, organizers of the Berks County Fersommling worry that the area's young are abandoning their Pennsylvania Dutch cultural heritage.That's a valid concern, but Frank Kessler offers some hope that the culture is holding its own in Berks County. 
Kessler, who's president of the German-Pennsylvanian Association in Germany, sees some positive trends in census data. In 2007, for the first time, Berks replaced Lehigh as the county claiming the largest number of Pennsylvania Dutch.While the number of Pennsylvania Dutch dialect speakers declined in other Pennsylvania counties, Kessler observed, Berks bucked the trend.
"In Berks, the number of dialect speakers has risen slightly," Kessler said in a recent email. He cites two reasons: Berks is a major hub for Pennsylvania Dutch events and it hosts a large Old Order Mennonite population.
The Kutztown Folk Festival, which opens its 63rd run tomorrow, has certainly played a role in preserving Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.Thanks largely to the visionary scholars who started the festival in 1950 - Alfred L. Shoemaker, Don Yoder and J. William Frey of Franklin & Marshall College - the nine-day event has become the longest-running folklife festival in America.
Not to be overlooked is the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. The center, now under the direction of Dr. Robert W. Reynolds, has amassed an extensive cultural library and a collection of Berks County farm life artifacts. Its recent release of Patrick J. Donmoyer's translation of "The Friend in Need," Johann Georg Homan's classic treatise on folk healing, has opened a new chapter for the center in publishing.
Teachers of the Pennsylvania German dialect, including Francis D. Kline of Robesonia and Ed Quinter of Allentown, are passing on the language to a new generation. And the region's Grundsau lodges, Granges and groups that hold fersommlings, each in their own way, contribute to keeping the culture alive.  
The Pennsylvania German Hour, which recently observed its 30th anniversary on BCTV, broadcasts hymns sung in the dialect by a choir whose family roots go back 300 years.
A lot of people sharing the same ideal, it seems, are working toward the same end. After all, isn't that what a culture is?
Ron Devlin, Reading Eagle columnist

Monday, June 25, 2012


My family's Burkholder reunion is held the day before Easter. My brother Merle and his family are almost always absent because of the distance. This weekend Merle, Edith, and daughter Bethanie were in the area so we hosted an extra mini-Burkholder reunion here. It was good to have all five of us siblings at the same place at the same time. Some of our children and grandchildren joined us. Twenty-six people were here for lunch and some more came in the afternoon. We had a good time renewing acquaintances, rehearsing old stories, etc. The memories and interests we have in common are the ties that bind us together.
Here we are (with spouses) lined up by age. Betty Ann, yours truly, Lester, Merle, Carol.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gifts In A Nutshell

Summer officially began this week and brought with it typical summer weather and a week of Summer Bible School. Our church is not air conditioned and we have sweltered through so many weeks of Bible School in June that it just seems heat and Bible School go together.
The theme this year was Spiritual Gifts. The Bible School leaders had some creative ideas to illustrate on the children's level the principles of using our gifts and working together. The theme verse was "God gave us spiritual gifts so we can help each other." The adult teacher gave us a list of spiritual gifts broken down into three categories. He described what each one is and how it can be used. Here is the outline:

Miraculous Gifts
apostle, tongues, interpretation, miracles, healing
Enabling Gifts
faith, discernment, wisdom, knowledge
Team (Task Oriented) Gifts
evangelism, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, pastor/shepherd, showing mercy, helps/serving, giving, government

The gifts most of us have are in the last two categories. The enabling gifts help us exercise the team gifts. Most of us have at least one or two dominant gifts with lesser amounts of the other gifts. The team gifts we practice may change with the circumstances in our lives. We can develop lesser gifts by using the small amount we have and building on it. The methods we use to exercise these gifts can vary greatly. If you don't use it you lose it. We were challenged to use whatever gifts we have for the Lord and the building of His church. God gave us spiritual gifts so we can help each other.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Signings

This has been an interesting weekend. The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society arranged three book signings for my newest book on Friday. I spoke and signed books at Landis Homes in the morning. About twenty-five people showed up for that one. I met an old friend there I haven't seen for at least thirty years.
I repeated the talk in the afternoon at the Muddy Creek Farm Library. I was surprised when seventy people showed up for that one. The questions and discussion after my talk was different at each place but good questions were asked at both places. I don't know how many copies of Aaron's Civil War were sold there but I signed a lot of them!
The third book signing of the day was held at the historical society in the evening. The crowd there was smaller and the discussion that followed was different but just as interesting as at the other two places. It was a long day but I enjoyed meeting and talking to all the people who came out.
Since some of Aaron's story takes place in Snyder County, the Snyder County Historical Society asked me to attend one of their events today. I do not sell books on Sunday so they had a copy on display and order blanks with information on how to obtain a copy of the book. It wasn't actually a book signing but a few books people brought books they had purchased earlier for me to sign.
This dear couple drove eighty miles to meet me and have their books signed. She read Aaron's Civil War and liked it so well she bought all six of my other books and is in the process of reading them.
Other authors were there with their books. The fellow standing in the middle of the room has written about a half dozen small books on the Indians and their way of life. He was entertaining us with Indian stories.
I was reminded of a quote I read somewhere that went something like this. "You will always be the same except for the books you read and the people you meet." I met some interesting people this weekend and made some new friends. My life has been broadened and enriched.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Valley Forge

Our family got together yesterday for Family Day. Our pattern has been to alternate between going to the cabin for a weekend one year and doing a one-day sightseeing trip the next year. There have been a few variations along the way but this was the year to do a day trip. Several years ago we planned to go to Valley Forge and were rained out. It's only about 80 minutes from here and a place I always wanted to see but never had. I still wanted to go there, so that was our chosen destination for yesterday. And this time the weather cooperated beautifully. 
We got CDs to play in our vehicles as we took a self-guided tour of the Valley Forge National Park. It was much cheaper than the trolley and we followed the same route. The CD helped us know what we were seeing so we could try to visualize what it was like to live there in the winter of 1777.
George Washington's army of 12,000 lived in 2000 log huts they built in the freezing weather. Although the original huts disappeared long ago, some replicas have been erected in scattered locations around the park. They were crude but at least provided a roof over their heads. As many as twelve men lived in these small huts.

George Washington lived in a tent until the men were housed in log cabins and then rented this house where he wintered with his wife and other officers. People came and went constantly but sometimes as many as twenty people were living here, eating and sleeping wherever they could find a space.

General Varnum lived in this house. It was built in the 1720s and is the oldest structure in the park.

The men who spent the winter at Valley Forge suffered from hunger, cold, and disease which resulted in about 3,000 deaths. Lack of food and proper sanitation resulted in many deaths from starvation, pneumonia, typhus, and dysentery. Those with contagious diseases were moved to hospitals off the premises. One of these was in the Ephrata Cloister.
The youngest member of the family was not impressed with his historical surroundings and slept through some of it.
After we finished the tour we came back here for a cookout and evening of visiting and reminiscing. The homemade ice cream and burgers were delicious. 

The Revolutionary War is a part of our history and changed the course of our nation but, contrary to what is taught in the history books, it was not supported by the majority of Americans. It was a war brought on by the aristocrats seeking to protect their interests. The majority of the common people would have been satisfied to remain under English rule. Most of the soldiers were not fighting for the great cause of freedom from oppression but joined the army for personal benefits---the promise of good pay, a way to reduce the seven years of indentured service required to pay for their passage to America, etc. The Hessians (Germans) were hired and imported specifically to fight for the Americans. 
The Mennonites found themselves in a difficult position during the Revolutionary War. Their historic doctrine of nonresistance prohibited them from joining the army. But refusal to do so branded them as Tories. They believed it was their duty to obey and pay taxes to the government but the Revolution was rebellion to authority. Additionally, when they immigrated they promised to be loyal to the king who was the authority at the time. Now they were suddenly being told they need to break that promise and be loyal to a rebel government. They could not conscientiously do this. They were caught in the struggle between the two sides. They wanted to obey the government but were unable to tell which side would win and therefore did not know who was their "Ceasar."
The Mennonites provided humanitarian aid to soldiers on both sides of the conflict. They provided food, blankets, and supplies to the hungry and naked men in Washington's army and helped to nurse the sick who were taken to the Ephrata Cloister. But they also provided lodging and food for British prisoners of war and helped them return to their units in Philadelphia and New York. For these actions, some Mennonites were jailed and some were taxed into bankruptcy. 
For a better understanding of the political situation at the time of the Revolutionary War, I recommend you read David Bearcot's book,  In God We Don't Trust. This book peels away the layers of myth that have been wrapped around the Revolutionary War and exposes the truth of the situation. While it may have been God's plan for the United States of America to become an independent nation, the same results could have been achieved without fighting a war that cost 50,000 lives. Other nations that were in the British Empire and gained independence did so by negotiations. America could have done the same but (to put it simply) went ballistic over a three-cent tax on tea that resulted in a lot of blood being shed unnecessarily.