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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking Ahead

Christmas 2015 is behind us and we're wrapping up the year. As usual, we wonder how it could go by so quickly and where the next year will take us. I'm glad we can't see the future but hope 2016 will not be as rushed as this year was. At least it looks like a slower start.
I usually have a list of things I want to do during the winter months and this year's list is short. I chalked off three things this fall and am not planning to start any new major projects. At the top of the list for January is scrapbooking my 2015 pictures. I hope to write some short stories for children but do not plan to start another book project. Have I written my last book? I don't know, but I don't have any ideas simmering that I want to develop.
It's not that I don't have any suggestions, but none I'm ready to pick up. Most people don't realize how much work it is to write a book and what is entailed in getting it published. The first requirement is that there must be a purpose or a point. If you want a memory book of your mother, do it yourself. Don't ask me to make it into a story.
If I do accept your request, whose book is this? Yours or mine? Are you going to publish it yourself? That means investing the money in having it printed and selling the book. How would I be paid for the time it takes to write a book? Am I expected to do it as a favor? If you don't want to self-publish, what is the message in the story? Is it something with enough marketing potential for a publisher to want to buy it? If not, I have other things to do with my time. Just because a book is written does not mean a publisher will accept it.
I enjoy writing stories and think it's one of the best ways to teach truth. But I can't write all the books people have suggested that were worthy of being written. I was glad to see other writers pick up some of them. I don't plan to quit but will leave it to the Lord to show me where I should go from here.
And now, I'll stop jabbering. I have an idea for a short story I want to try to write today.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ready For Christmas

"Are you ready for Christmas?" everyone is asking this time of year.
 How am I supposed to answer that? What do they mean? Does being ready for Christmas mean all the baking, decorating, mail, and shopping is done? That I have given to a charitable cause so a poor child or family can "have Christmas"? (There are certainly plenty of appeals going out for that kind of thing at this time of year.) That I have taken time to meditate and prepare my heart to worship and adore Christ the Lord?
Yes, my baking, decorating, and shopping is all done. The women in our family got together the day after Thanksgiving to bake cookies. As usual, I wound up with enough to last into next year. The radio station begins playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving but I refuse to do any decorating before December 1. And then I begin with the nativity scene, add a few candles, snowmen, etc. but no tree or anything elaborate.
My Christmas mail  was sent out the first week of December and I finished shopping then too. I did most of it online this year and think I will do that again. I will gladly pay the shipping charges to spare my feet and back the wear and tear of walking, elbowing crowds, and the frustration of not being able to find what I want. Online shopping was much easier and faster.
I haven't actually given to a charitable cause yet but we have chosen the recipient of the offering which will be taken at our family dinner on Christmas Day. We consider it our birthday present to Jesus. The offering box sets at the head of the buffet table so Jesus gets His gift before we distribute our gifts to each other. Should He not have the best and largest gift?
Our church has a special service on Good Friday, Ascension, and Thanksgiving, but for some unknown reason we have never had a service on Christmas. There is a variety of Christmas programs in the area to choose from and this year we went to hear the Lancaster Chorale in November. The first half of the program was on a Thanksgiving theme but ended with Christmas music. I was moved to tears by some of the music and it was a time of true praise and worship.
I was "ready for Christmas" early this year and it is not a frantic scramble to get everything done. That gives me time to enjoy the season and meditate on the meaning of the Incarnation.
What does the word "incarnation" mean? Carne is a Latin word that means flesh or meat. Chile con Carne is chili with meat.  Incarnation is the word we use for the doctrine that the second person of the Trinity assumed a human form in the person of Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is "God in flesh."
Jesus needed a mother to be born as a human being and have the blood that was required to be a sacrifice for sin. But his Father was the spirit of God, not a human being. If Jesus had been born of two human parents he would have had the same sinful nature as the rest of us and been unable to save us. He was both God and man, the only perfect and complete sacrifice able to atone for the sins of all men past, present, and future.
The birth of Christ was the pivotal point in the history of the world, so important that the calendar is dated BC or AD by his birth. Every time anyone writes the date, believer or unbeliever, he is testifying that Jesus was born 2015 years ago.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Perfect Job

My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned because I couldn't concentrate.
Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but I just couldn't hack it, so they gave me the ax.
After that I tried to be a tailor, but I just wasn't suited for it. Mainly because it was a so-so job and seamed more exciting than it was.
Next I tried working in a muffler factory but that was exhausting.
I wanted to be a barber, but I just couldn't cut it so we parted.
Then I tried to be a chef -- figured it would add a little spice to my life but I just wasn't at home on the range.
Finally, I attempted to be a deli worker, but any way I sliced it, I couldn't cut the mustard.
My best job was being a musician, but eventually I found I wasn't noteworthy.
Mining was interesting, but then they gave me the shaft.
Next was a job in a shoe factory; I tried but I just didn't fit in.
I became a professional fisherman, but my net income was reel low.
I managed to get a good job working for a pool maintenance company, but the work was just too draining.
I got a job at a zoo feeding giraffes but I was fired because I wasn't up to it.
So then I got a job in a health club, but they said I wasn't fit for the job.
Next, I found being an electrician interesting, but there were too many undercurrents.
After many years of trying to find steady work I finally got a job as a history teacher until I realized there was no future in it.
My last job was working at Starbucks, but I had to quit because it was always the same old grind and the job had no perks.
So I retired and I found I am a perfect fit for the job!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Too Easy

I've been trying to trace the children and grandchildren of a man who died in 1757. He had 17 children and information on some of them is pretty sketchy. I had started working on it awhile back and then dropped it for other things. A couple weeks ago someone asked a question that made me pull it out and work on it again.
I made a fair amount of progress but could not find proof for the marriages of a couple of the girls. The genealogy books where they are found do not say where they got the names of the husbands. I made a list of things to look for and spent yesterday at the historical society at Lancaster looking for something to confirm those marriages. No luck. I gave up and went home convinced the names of those men could not be documented.
After I got home I went through things some more and finally pulled a book of abstracts of Orphans Court records off my shelf. And there they were! The husbands were listed in the distribution of the estate of their father-in-law in 1789. There is proof after all, and it was right on my shelf at home all the time.
I got to thinking----how often do we miss something because it's too easy? I'm studying John 3 to teach Sunday school this week. Nicodemus came to Jesus asking questions. He believed Jesus had come from God but did not understand the new birth and eternal life.  Just believe? Surely it can't be that easy. Don't we have to DO something first to be worthy of salvation?
The Jews missed the Messiah because He didn't come the way they expected. A poor man from an obscure village is the Messiah? A carpenter? A bachelor with no wife or children? A man who has no interest in overthrowing the Roman government? How is he going to save us if he doesn't fight the Romans?
Jesus did not come to set up an earthly government. He came to establish a spiritual kingdom that has no end. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."  Eternal life is a gift from God for everyone in the whole world. But you have to accept it. It's that simple!

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Charlie Brown Christmas (The Meaning of Christmas)

This classic is now 50 years old.

Last year the city of Reading put up such a straggly tree it raised a ruckus that was heard nationwide. But it turned out to be the most memorable Christmas tree the city ever had. And this year they have added Snoopy's dog house to the display in memory of last year's Charlie Brown tree.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

When Kids Become King

A lot of the parenting advice that is printed today is not worth reading. Here is an article in today's Reading Eagle newspaper that is right on the money.
When Kids Become King
In the 1960s, as part of an overall, culture-wide paradigm shift, a sea change took place in our collective understanding of the rearing of children. The two fundamental questions in that regard are and have always been: 1. What is the nature of a child? and 2. What constitute parental responsibilities toward a child? In the 1950s and before, those questions were answered in one way; since the 1960s, they have been answered in quite another way.
One parenting point of view was replaced with another. As I say in my latest book, "Grandma Was Right After All!" the traditional point of view was represented by a set of parenting aphorisms that all but disappeared as the new, postmodern psychological view took over. For example, I am a member of the last generation of American children to be corrected when one of us acted too big for our britches. But then, our parents understood the common sense of not sanctioning high self-esteem.
In the good old days (when according to reliable statistics the mental health of children was lots and lots better than it is today), children were to be seen and not heard. In more direct terms, when adults were talking, children were to listen. They were not to interrupt. This assisted in maintaining a healthy boundary between adults and children. That boundary caused them to "look up," to aspire to become adults (because they were not treated as if they already were adults, only shorter).
In the good old days, children lay in the beds they made. One's parents made clear, early on, that one was responsible for the choices he/she had made. Today's parents lie in the beds their children make. They also complain that child rearing is stressful. Get it?
In the good old days, parents told children to stew in their own juices. The parent was not going to be swayed by a child's emotional outbursts. Today's parents feel their children's pain. When they make decisions that cause children emotional pain, they actually think their children's pain (expressed as crying, shouting, screaming and so on) is indication that their decisions should be revisited. Lots of today's parents complain to me that their kids are manipulative. Duh!
Once upon a time, money did not grow on trees. It still doesn't. Today, it magically appears when a parent swipes a plastic card at an ATM. I wish I had some ATM money for every time a parent has said to me that her child acts entitled.
Baby boomers ate what parents put on their plates because there were starving children in the world. I credit unfortunate children in Europe, Africa and China for why I enjoy eating stuff some people can't even pronounce - borscht, for example. I have lost count of the number of times I've seen parents bring a plastic container of the only food their child will eat to group meals. Proper parenting is hard, or so I'm told.
Nearly every child raised in the 1950s was told he was just a little fish in a big pond. That's a good thing for anyone to keep in mind. Humility, after all, is weightless. It must be a terrible burden to think of oneself as a big fish.
The burden is all the worse if the big fish in question is 4 or 5 years old.
by family psychologist John Rosemond

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


The month is ten days old and I have not posted anything since the last days of October. Why? Too busy. I thought things were supposed to slow down by this stage of life. In some ways, it has but the overall picture is the same. It's just that the type of activity has changed. I have never sat around with time on my hands wondering what to do. Here's a run down of the first ten days of this month.
November 1--One of our sister churches had a weekend meeting with a speaker from Virginia on the subject of the Civil War. We took in all three sessions: Saturday evening, Sunday morning and evening.
November 2--Laundry day, finished the project I was working on all summer in which I was serving as editor, revival meetings began at our church in the evening
November 3--Worked at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society all day, church in the evening
November 4--Took a friend to a funeral in the morning, planted some tulips and cleaned up some flower beds, cleaned upstairs so it's ready for overnight guests on Friday, worked on preparing to teach Sunday school, and went to church in the evening
November 5--Babysat a 3 year-old grandson, caught up on ironing, cleaned most of the house, had a long phone call from someone asking for advice about writing, finished reading a manuscript someone else sent for review, went to church in the evening
November 6--Finished getting my Sunday school lesson ready, mopped floors, and went for groceries. We skipped church that evening because I was one of the speakers at a book signing arranged by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. Becky McGurrin was the other speaker. She read from her book Somewhere In The Skies and I read from my newest book Esther Starts From Home. We had a nice turnout and sold a lot of books.

Becky and her husband, Joe, followed us home and were here overnight. They live in West Virginia and it was too far for them to drive home that night.
November 7--We had a wonderful visit with Becky and Joe which stretched out until nearly noon. Then we spent the rest of the day at the Christian Aid Ministries' Open House.
November 8--I taught Sunday school in the morning, we had a fellowship meal for lunch, came home to get much-needed naps, and went back for the final session of revivals. I had not had time to make anything for my contribution to the fellowship meal and got by with dumping jars of pickles and olives on a tray.
November 9--Laundry day again. I had breakfast at a restaurant with three other ladies which again stretched until nearly noon. Then I came home to finish laundry, do some more clean up work in flower beds and other small jobs. Finally, the rush was over and I sat down to read a book.
November 10--I am taking today to catch my breath and do some sit-down jobs like this. Maybe tomorrow I will have the energy to tackle something more strenuous.
I am enjoying this stage of life as much as I did each stage before this. But the idea that "retirement age" is slow and boring with not much to do is an illusion. I'm just as busy as ever, just in different ways. Excuse me now as I move on to the next thing.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Glory of Autumn

When we were younger and had a passel of children at home, we had an annual tradition of going on a hike when the leaves were colored in the fall. This was usually around our daughter's October 19 birthday. We hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail or other places in Penn's Woods.
We ran out of children and ambition and dropped the tradition many years ago. But on Sunday the leaves were at their peak and the colors were more brilliant than some years. I got the urge once again to go out and enjoy the glory of autumn. I thought we could just take a drive rather than hike but that turned out not to be satisfactory. To really see and fully appreciate fall leaves, you have to get up close to them. So we parked the car in a parking lot on the Blue Mountain and walked some trails.
The bright sunshine brought out the full colors of the leaves and the smell of the fallen ones can only be appreciated while walking in the woods. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but there was something lacking with just the two of us. There was no one to run ahead or lag behind poking sticks in hollow logs, picking up the perfect walking stick, collecting handfuls of leaves or other woodland treasures, saying, "I have to go to the bathroom," or "Mom, he hit me with his stick." When hiking was a family activity I never thought I'd miss that kind of thing, but I did. We walked sedately along snapping pictures and stayed out as long as the light lasted. It was nice but I missed the company of the children who have disappeared into adults.


We wound up at Bloody Springs where the Spatz family were killed by Indians during the French and Indian War. They lived near the spring, which was renamed Bloody Spring after the attack. This is not far from where the Hostettler family lived and whose story of the Indian attack they suffered in 1757 is well-known. Not many details seem to be available on the Spatz family and their story. Whether it is fact or fancy I cannot confirm but it certainly was a distinct possibility. The Blue Mountain was the dividing line between the frontier and Indian territory. The Hostettlers lived at the foot of the mountain but this spot is part way up the mountain. Being too close to Indian territory made them easy targets.
This monument has been erected to mark the spot. The spring has been reduced to a trickle but is still there.

Penn's Woods has changed so much it's hard to imagine what it was like to live here 250 years ago. Time moves relentlessly on. Children grow up, trees disappear, leaves fall---the cycle repeats year after year. The changes come in such small increments they are hardly noticeable. But one day you look back, see how much things have changed, and wonder how it happened so fast.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Esther Starts From Home

My newest book, Esther Starts From Home, arrived yesterday and will begin to appear in bookstores next week. It was published by Christian Light and will also be available for online orders at The retail price is $8.95.

The book is a collection of 29 short stories for children up to age 10. All of the stories are about Esther and her sister Grace. The title is taken from one of the stories in which Esther thinks about how the only way she knows to get somewhere is by starting from her house. She wonders how people know which roads to take if they start from somewhere else. The story ends with:
 Suddenly something dawned on Esther that she had never thought of before. “We live in the middle of the world and everybody else lives around us.” 
Everyone but Esther laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Esther cried. “We do, don’t we?”
“Yes, dear,” Mom said. “Our home is in the middle of your world. That’s the way it should be.”
“You can start from home and go anywhere in the world—and all the way to Heaven too,” Daddy said.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thomas Jenkins

We always go to Ohio about this time of year to help our daughter celebrate her birthday. We went out on Friday morning and came home Sunday evening. Leroy took the whole day off Friday so we could go first thing in the morning and have enough time for me to do some research in the Guernsey County courthouse before it closed at 4pm. I packed a lunch which I ate on the way, and then he ate his after we arrived at 12:30.
The need for this research is a long story. Suffice it to say I got in an argument this summer with someone who was claiming the Thomas Jenkins reported to have been buried in the Logan cemetery (on the hill above our daughter's house) was a Thomas Jenkins who lived in Champaign County. I was sure the Thomas in Guernsey County was not the same person as the Champaign County Thomas and went in search of documents to prove that. I achieved my objective but also found more than that.
This all began when I found a badly damaged but still legible gravestone in the cemetery for a Sara Jenkins who was the wife of Thomas Jenkins. The cemetery record says Thomas was buried there in 1832, so it seemed they must be husband and wife since they are the only two Jenkins listed there. A more careful reading of the stone this weekend shows that it says Sara was "the wife of Thomas Jenkins who departed this life February 29, 1832." Whoever read that stone and wrote up the cemetery record took that to mean Thomas died in 1832 but it was actually Sara's death date.
The Guernsey County records show Thomas Jenkins Sr. died in 1838 and Thomas Jenkins Jr. died in 1858. There is nothing to support a Thomas dying in 1832. In addition, the wife of Thomas Sr. was Margaret, not Sara.
Anyone who is interested in the documents on the family of Thomas and Margaret Jenkins can read my findings here
That is all the further I plan to go with the research on this family. I am satisfied that I have proved the Thomas Jenkins family in Guernsey County was not the same as the one in Champaign County. If anyone who is in that family wants to do more research, they can build on this foundation.
We spent Saturday at the Antrim Mennonite School benefit auction, which just happened to be the same weekend. We bought a few small items and food. They had a good turnout and raised a nice amount of money for the school. The weather was more agreeable than sometimes but turned colder in the afternoon.
On Sunday morning there was a heavy, killing frost on the ground. That moved east with us as we came home. It was snowing as we crossed the mountains and on top it was enough to cover the ground with a layer of white. This morning (Monday) we had 28 degrees and a heavy coating of frost. Growing season 2015 is over. We're heading into another winter, like it or not.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

William Tyndale

William Tyndale, one of the unsung heroes not only of religious history, but also of the history of literature and the English language, died this week (Oct. 6, it is thought) in 1536. Tyndale was an English scholar whose Protestant beliefs and facility with languages would prove revolutionary in furthering the Protestant Reformation, but also in modernizing the way English was written and spoken.
A primary goal of Martin Luther's preaching was to end the overreliance on the Catholic Church and the pope when it came to interpreting God's teachings. Luther wanted people to be able to read the Bible and interpret it for themselves, so he translated it into his native German.
Tyndale did Luther one better. He was the first person to translate the New Testament into English from its original Greek, and because printing presses were becoming readily available, Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, or Tyndale Bible, as it was called, was widely disseminated.
"I defy the Pope and all his laws," Tyndale wrote, "and if God spares my life ere many years I will (even) cause the boy that driveth the plow to know Scripture."
Tyndale's Protestant beliefs did not sit well with the Anglican Church in England, especially its founder and sovereign, King Henry VIII, and when Tyndale wrote a pamphlet criticizing Henry's divorce of Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn, Henry vowed revenge. Although Tyndale was on the European continent at the time, agents of Henry eventually arrested him for heresy and burned him at the stake.
But his legacy lives on. By one estimate, 83 percent of the New Testament in the famous King James Bible borrows from Tyndale. Some of the most famous phrases in the English language are his, including, "Am I my brother's Keeper?" "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. " "The patience of Job." "The signs of the times." "With God all things are possible." And even "Eat, drink and be merry."
Tyndale also had a profound influence on William Shakespeare. In his writings and phrasings, Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both the Bible and Thomas Cranmer's first Book of Common Prayer, which itself borrowed heavily from, and some say outright plagiarized, Tyndale.
(by Bruce Kauffman)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sheer Lunacy

There was a lot of excitement about the supermoon eclipse on Sunday night. Unfortunately, clouds drew a curtain over the sky where we live and we could see nothing.

A supermoon occurs when a new or full moon is at its closest to the Earth. On Sunday a supermoon was combined with a lunar eclipse. There have only been only five supermoon eclipses since 1900 (in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982). There will not be another until 2033.
Sunday's supermoon eclipse lasted one hour and eleven minutes. The earth, sun, and moon were in alignment with the earth directly between the two. So the moon fell completely in the shadow of the earth. The moon did not look completely dark but had a coppery red color from the light of the sun reflected by the earth. (I hope my understanding of this is not out of alignment.)

One of the things that impressed me about the event was its predictability. Man was able to calculate the exact moment the eclipse would begin in different parts of the world, how long it would last, and when it would end. The reason man could accurately predict the eclipse was not due to his own cleverness but the precision of the orbits of the planets. Each one moves in a set pattern at a consistent speed that never varies.  If there was even a slight variation just once a year, there would soon be collisions in the skies and disruption of the universe. In a word, mayhem.
Just this one law of nature should be enough to make any thinking person admit someone is in control of the universe. Just as a space ship cannot make itself and fly to its destination without someone at the controls, so the universe could not make itself or operate with such precision without Someone at the controls. God made all things, set them in order, and maintains His creation. To imagine otherwise is sheer lunacy.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the world displays His handiwork." 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Esther Starts From Home

After I retired from writing Sunday school lessons, I missed writing for children. I decided I could still write short stories for my favorite age group (4-9) and submit them to the take-home papers published by Christian Light and distributed at church every Sunday.
The easiest stories to write are one's own memories, so I dashed off a story about a little girl who had a big imagination playing she was a pioneer. I didn't want to use my own name and decided to call her Esther because someone once said every Mennonite family has an Aunt Esther somewhere.
That story was so much fun I wrote some more and included Esther's older sister. She needed a name so I just pulled one out of the air and called her Grace. One story followed another until I eventually had written 29 stories about Grace and Esther. Before they were all published, people began telling me I should put them into a book. I could not do that on my own because Christian Light held the copyright to the stories.
When the request continued to come from various people, I passed it on to Christian Light. They reviewed the stories and decided to compile them in a book. I was stumped for a suitable title and decided to accept whatever they chose. They decided to use the title of one of the stories and call it Esther Starts From Home and other stories.
The story from which the title comes is about (preschool) Esther thinking about how they only way she knows how to go anywhere is to start from her house. She wondered how people know which road to take if they start from somewhere else. The story ends with:
Suddenly something dawned on Esther that she had never thought of before. “We live in the middle of the world and everybody else lives around us.” 
Everyone but Esther laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Esther cried. “We do, don’t we?”
“Yes, dear,” Mom said. “Our home is in the middle of your world. That’s the way it should be.”
“You can start from home and go anywhere in the world—and all the way to Heaven too,” Daddy said.
Some adjustments had to be made to the drawings with each story. It has taken about a year but we are finally reaching the finish line. The book is ready to go to the printer and should be on the market in a few weeks.
I hope there are no glitches because the historical society where I volunteer has scheduled a book signing at Hinkletown Mennonite School on November 6. There's always a sense of satisfaction in seeing a project completed.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Truth Rises

Several years ago I came across a quote about Easter that I really like. It says:
"Easter says you can put Truth in a grave but it won't stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!"
My mother said the same thing once in words something like this: "You don't have to make a big fuss to defend yourself; wait it out and the truth will rise." I saw it happen this morning and the taste of victory is sweet.
I've been a member of FindAGrave for six years. On this website, people can enter burials and post pictures of gravestones. It's a great asset to those of us afflicted with genealogy disease. On this website I can find people in other states without going there. A gravestone is considered a primary source and seeing a photo of an out-of-state stone confirms information without requiring me to travel anywhere.
 However, the website is only as good as the people who post the information on it. Some people are more interested in quantity than quality. They will enter burials from a cemetery record in a library (secondary source) without checking for accuracy. Even worse, some will list burials from sources such as family trees which are not regulated or to be trusted. And at the bottom of the ladder are people who simply guess and create memorials without anything to support them.
I ran into one such person this summer. He found a memorial page I had created several years ago with a photo of the stone as proof and wanted to claim it as his ancestor. When I detected that his information was not accurate and refused to let him have it, he got downright nasty. Most people I have met on FindAGrave are sensible and easy to work with, but not this one.
When I wouldn't surrender my lady to him, he went ahead and made memorials of his own for the lady and her husband with the information he wanted to believe. He changed her name to make it fit what he wanted it to be. I pointed out that these people could not be as his ancestors as they lived in another county and the county records showed the husband died a year before the one (with the same name) he was claiming. In addition, the lady was still living when her "husband" married his second wife. He claimed he had family records and can prove I'm wrong. I was not going to fight but neither was I going to accept his story when the facts showed otherwise. Anyone who could do the math would see his story didn't hold water. I just bided my time and waited for the truth to rise.
This morning I checked again to see the status of his fictitious person. It's gone! Either he finally did the math or enough people told him he's wrong. I suspect it was the later because he removed his email address from his profile. Whatever happened, the truth has risen!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Staunton Experience

My younger sister Carol has been a high school English teacher for thirty years. Last spring the school decided to give her "an experience" in honor of her service. She received an all-expense paid trip to Staunton, Virginia, to see a Shakespeare play at the American Shakespeare theatre and lodging at the Anne Hathaway Bed & Breakfast. (Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife.) The B & B had three bedrooms so Carol decided to invite her two sisters and three friends to go along and fill up the place. (We extras each chipped in to pay our tickets, gas, etc.)
We left on Friday afternoon, September 4, and arrived at the B & B about 9pm. It was dark by then so we could not appreciate the beauty of the property until the next morning. The house was built in 2009 to resemble a drawing of Anne Hathaway's actual house in England, complete with a genuine thatched roof.
Although this place is right in town, it sets toward the back of the lot and a full English garden screens it from the road so it feels secluded.

The Great Room where we ate breakfast also had a comfortable lounging area in front of the fireplace. The owner of the place is from England and spoke with a strong British accent, which just added to the atmosphere.


The four younger members of our party slept in the two upstairs Romeo and Juliette rooms while my older sister and I slept in "William's Room" on the first floor.

After breakfast Saturday morning we went to the Frontier Cultural Museum a couple miles from the B&B. The museum features living history farms of the first pioneers who settled in the Shenandoah Valley. There is also a Native American home site and two farms from the 1800s.
We began our tour with a West African home. This one was included because of the large number of Africans who were brought to Virginia. The ground inside the family compound was intentionally kept bare as protection from deadly snakes. The buildings are kept wide and low to keep them cool. The one in the center is the man's "office" where he eats and does business. Just behind it is his sleeping house. About age 13 the boys begin sleeping in their father's sleeping house. Younger children sleep in their mothers' houses. The house on the right is the first wife's house and on the left is the second wife's house. Each one has their own outdoor kitchen.

The English farm came from Worcestershire. It originally stood near the town of Hartlebury in England's West Midlands. This house belonged to a yeoman, a class of independent landowning farmers who sent many sons and daughters to Virginia in the mid-to-late 17th century. This family's main source of income was wool. The pieces of this house were numbered as it was dismantled in 1992. It was shipped to America and reassembled in the museum in 1993.

The Scotch-Irish (Ulster) farm formerly stood on the townland of Claraghmore in East Longfield Parish, near the town of Drumquin in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. This was the first of the structures acquired by the museum in late 1984 to early 1985. Staff members numbered and shipped 174 tons of stone to Virginia to reconstruct this Irish farm.
The family lived in one room on the left side of the center door. The room on the right side of the door is where the father wove into cloth the wool and flax the family produced. The parents had a bed and the father had a chair but children slept on the floor and everyone sat on the floor to eat. At this point in history their main food was oats. They raised potatoes but considered them horse food.

The German farm, acquired in 1991, had the most familiar look to me. The first mass exodus of Germans from the Palatinate occurred in 1709 and continued through the 1750s. Pennsylvania became the focal point for German settlement in America. Most of the German-speaking people who settled in Virginia went there after living Pennsylvania for a period of time.
From the late-17th century to the late-20th century, this German farm stood in the small village of Hordt in the Rhineland-Palatinate. German farmers' homes and barns were in the villages but their fields were outside the village. The ownership of this house has been traced back to Johann Jacob Wolf and his wife, Maria Appollonia Buchman, who were married in 1784. The date "1688" is carved into the northeast corner post of the house and may indicate the date of construction.

The path then took us "across the water" to America where we visited a Native American home. The type of house the natives built depended on location and tribe. This one is not portraying any particular tribe but is just intended to give a general idea of a native home.

We visited a replica of a 1740 pioneer home. One thing I noticed was that although the style of construction varied, the majority of the houses were built of some combination of wood and earth.


The next American house is called the 1820 house, although the original (left) part was built in the 1770s by Johannes Bauman of Berks County, Pennsylvania. His grandson added the right section in 1820. Bauman's house was moved to the museum from Timberville, Virginia. Notice how much "progress" has been made since 1740.

Across the road from the 1820 house is the 1860 house, which is again more elaborate. It includes a spring house, large barn, and other buildings. This farm was moved here from Botetourt County, Virginia. It originally stood southwest of the town of Eagle Rock. This farm was built by the Bargers, a family of German descent. The builder's grandfather had settled in Rockbridge County in the 1790s. His son moved to Botetourt. In 1832, John Barger bought 187 acres along Little Patterson's Creek and began work on his house in 1835. As the family grew, the house was expanded with an addition on the right side.

This concluded our tour of the museum and we returned to the B & B to freshen up for the next event. After a bit of wandering we found our way to the Blackfriars Playhouse to see William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The American Shakespeare Theatre is a replica of the Globe Theatre in England where Shakespeare's plays were originally performed. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed so I don't have any pictures from there.
Julius Caesar is one of the Shakespeare plays Carol teaches at school. She said she wouldn't be able to recite it but as she watched it being performed she knew what the actors would say next. Afterward, she told us how she teaches it. Some of the points she makes from it is that it's never right to do a wrong and the end does not justify the means. I enjoyed watching it even though I wasn't able to brush all the hay seeds out of my hair.
We ended Saturday with a picnic in a park and then went back to the B & B to relax, play games, etc.
Sunday morning we checked out of the B & B and went to services at Staunton Mennonite Church. It's a small but friendly congregation.

After church we headed up to Bridgewater and had lunch with some of Carol's friends, Mike and Sarah Showalter. About 3pm we hit the road north. We survived the trip in spite of the fact that it was in the 90s all weekend and the AC in the van wasn't working. Carol discovered it had given up the ghost about a half hour before we left on Friday. We looked forward to this trip all summer and made a lot of memories that will last as long as we do. I was honored to be included in this "experience."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

School Days

I've been enjoying seeing the first-day-of-school pictures the Mamas are proudly posting on Facebook this week.
I couldn't help comparing these pictures with the days when my own children started school. If we took pictures at all, it was with film and weeks later before we saw the pictures. And then the photo may have been a dud that did not properly preserve the moment.
Reading the comments mothers are making with their photos tells me that even though technology has changed, mothering has not. There is pride and excitement at seeing the first one march off to kindergarten or first grade, and also some sadness and trepidation. The little one that has been under our care 24/7 is now going out into the big scary world where others will have an influence on him or her.
By the time the last one begins the march to the first day of school, mothers have gotten used to sending children to school and the tone of the comments changes. There is still excitement but with the flavor of relief. At last! I have a quiet house all day to get things done without someone underfoot. I can identify with that feeling too. How long a mother has preschoolers varies with the number and age spread of the children. Since our six were spread over fifteen years, I had preschoolers in the house for twenty years. I wasn't sure I knew how to function without a preschooler around when the last one started kindergarten. It took me about two days to get used to and decide I liked it!
For so many years, my daily and annual schedule revolved around school---buying new clothes and school supplies in August, packing lunches, driving to and from school, helping with homework, going to school functions, paying tuition. After the last one graduated from high school we had a break for a few years and then he started college. Our involvement in school days began in 1974 when the first one went to first grade and ended in 2010 when the youngest graduated from college.
This is my moment of triumph at crossing the finish line. All done but the shouting!
School was a fact of life for many years. I didn't hate it, but I certainly am counting my blessings that I don't have to deal with school anymore. Been there done that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

True Evangelical Faith

If you are a Mennonite or another branch of Anabaptist, you are probably familiar with the words of Menno Simons in which he describes the nature of true evangelical faith. A beautiful song has been written using some of the words and titled True Evangelical Faith. The words in the song are highlighted below.

For true evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lie dormant,
but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love;
It dies unto all flesh and blood;
it destroys all forbidden lusts and desires;
it seeks and serves and fears God;
it clothes the naked;
it feeds the hungry;
it comforts the sorrowful;
it shelters the destitute;
it aids and consoles the sad;
it returns good for evil;
it serves those who harm it;
it prays for those that persecute it;
teaches, admonishes, and reproves with the Word of the Lord;
it seeks that which is lost;
it binds up that which is wounded;
it heals that which is diseased and it saves that which is sound.
It becomes all things to all men.
Menno Simons, 1539
In statements flanking either side of the highlighted text above, Menno emphasized how true faith will press on to righteousness, love and obedience. True faith results in love for God which leads to obedience to the commandments of God.
I'm not saying this song is wrong, but the truncated quote emphasizes a social gospel and leaves out the aspects of evangelism, righteousness, and suffering which were very much part of the original Anabaptist vision.
As we reflect on Menno’s full version, let us awaken the other areas that embody true faith. Self-denial and obedience are qualities that the majority of American Mennonites are not familiar with. Prosperity has made us soft and we know nothing of the persecution that was part of everyday life for our Anabaptist forefathers. While true evangelical faith does meet the physical needs of the suffering, it is much more than that and we dare not omit the more weighty matters such as righteous living, self-denial and obedience.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Change of Seasons

The summer is winding down and subtle signs of fall are approaching. Back-to-school sales are popular right now. Leroy cut down the corn this week and the garden is empty except for tomatoes and potatoes. It seems just yesterday that we planted and we're at the end of harvest already. Yesterday  I heard some Canadian geese circling overhead. Another sound of approaching fall.
I take a break from housecleaning over summer but the seasons begin to overlap when the cycle begins again at the end of August with scrubbing the front porch and patio in back of the house. I like to do them while it's still warm enough to slop with the hose. I always wind up getting wet but soon dry off again on a warm day.
I did the porch yesterday with the help of a 3-year-old grandson who was spending the day with me. He loved it! Leroy put a different kind of nozzle on the hose and I wasn't going to show him how it worked because I knew what would happen. Well, he figured it out himself and the results were as expected. We both came in soaked, but soon dried off again.
This has been a very busy year, beginning with our trip to Texas at the end of March. May was extremely full and there was one thing after another all through June, July, and August. The corn, tomatoes, peaches, and apples are all canned now and the dust is beginning to settle. But now the summer is almost over. I'm just thankful we are in good health and able to do all these things.
I shall not lack for things to do in the fall. I always have a to-do list and it is always supplemented with things that pop up as we go along.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kitchen Adventures

Well, that was interesting! I don't recall ever bandaging myself on a spot I couldn't see. It sure would have helped to have a ball joint in my ankle.
What happened? I pushed a chair to the sink to get something that was above my reach, which incidentally isn't very high. When I picked it up slightly to position it, I didn't notice the floor protector had fallen out of the chair leg (nail point up) and stepped squarely on it. Gusher!
I put my foot on a Kleenex and slid it to the bathroom where I made another mess trying to stop the bleeding. A Band-Aid didn't work. It was soaked before I got it in place. So I got out the bag of sterile pads and gauze, but I still wasn't sure exactly where the puncture was. There was no one around to help me so I put a mirror under my foot to locate the source of the gusher. Ah! There it is, at the bottom of the fourth toe.
I'm not very proficient at bandaging and self-bandaging by looking in a mirror is awkward , but I got it done and stanched the flow. Now I'm hobbling around trying to get food ready for supper tonight. The company is just going to have to overlook the pink slipper I'm wearing to keep the bandage clean.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Drought in Haiti

My niece has been operating a clinic for ten years at La Source in northern Haiti. Here is a portion from her last email:
"We've been having a drought--the worst one in the 10 years I've lived here.  People usually plant beans, corn and peanuts in April or May.  This year there were a few good rains but they did not continue. People planted twice, but each time the plants withered and died before they got to be a foot tall--there wasn't even anything worth giving their goats, donkeys and sheep of the remaining plants.  This is normally a hungry season, supplies from the harvest in January are dwindling and crops planted in April or May are just beginning to be harvested.  Children, who often receive a free lunch at school, are all at home depending on their parents for food.  This year is even worse, not only because there isn't food around but also because there is no hope of food in the foreseeable future. . .
In August hopefully the rains will come more regularly again allowing people to plant millet, beans and a few more peanuts (although some people have already sold their seed stock in order to buy food), but even then the harvest wouldn't be ready until January. 
We are getting lots of requests to help people pay off food that they've bought on credit from local merchants. It is challening to know how to handle them because in many ways it feels like a bottomless pit.  We can help them pay for food they bought two weeks ago, but that's been eaten long ago and they still need food to eat today and tomorrow and if they couldn't pay for that food how are they going to pay for the next batch?  People are willing to work, but it is impossible for us to employ everyone. . . .
The next few months will be difficult ones as families scrounge for money to send their children back to school, money to buy them new uniforms, shoes and books.  The staff will be under considerable pressure to help pay schooling for people and it is impossible to help everyone.  I'm sure they'd appreciate your prayers for wisdom to prioritize and how to best help."
As I took my morning walk yesterday and saw the tall corn and lush growth on every side, I remembered our dry spell in May. The corn I planted in the garden did not come up and I wondered what kind of summer we were going to have. But then the rains came, the corn came up, and regular rains produced an abundant crop. I tried to imagine how it would be if the rains had never come and wished I could send some of our excess to the hungry people in Haiti.
That very day, we got a letter from Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) which also described the famine in Haiti caused by the drought. They are sending corn and beans to the La Source area. I can't send my excess to Haiti but I can send money to CAM to help feed the hungry in Haiti.
If you would like to help, send your donation to Christian Aid Ministries, P.O. Box 360, Berlin, Ohio 44610. Mark it for Drought in Haiti.

"Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least, you have done it unto me."

Monday, July 27, 2015

Stauffer Family History

Mennonites from eighty nations gathered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last week for Mennonite World Conference. The crowd of about 7,500 that assembled there were largely from more liberal branches of the church. If the local conservative branches of the church had attended, the crowd could easily have doubled.
Although this was seen as a historic event and in my back yard, I had no desire to attend. However, one of the benefits the event brought was that it drew some of the people we met when we toured the Netherlands (Holland) and Germany in 1997. One of these was the Daniel Bergholdt family who live in the ancestral Stauffer home in Ibersheim, Germany.
The Stauffer story begins in the village of Eggiwil in the Emmental, Switzerland.

Niclaus Stauffer owned Luchsmatt farm in 1547, and the property was passed down to several more generations of Stauffers.
The Stauffers were Mennonites who were persecuted for their faith. Near the end of 1671, a group of 450 Mennonites were rounded up and exiled from the country. They were put on boats on or near this spot on the Aare River and shipped north into Germany.
Ninety-year-old Christian Stauffer and 66 of his family members were part of this large group of refugees who fled to the Palatinate and were aided by the Mennonites already living there. In 1672, Christian Stauffer and his family were reported to be living in Ibersheim, Germany. (The country was not unified into a nation until much later, but we know it as Germany today.) The records show he had left large possessions behind in Switzerland and brought nothing with him.
This plaque, which hangs in the Stauffer ancestral home in Ibersheim, was carved by a descendant of Christian Stauffer. It depicts him leading his family into Ibersheim. The names carved above the people are the places his descendants have gone from there.
This old building in Ibersheim dates to the early 1700s and was used as an inn for poor travelers. It was probably not yet built when the Stauffers arrived in the village. They slept in barns or wherever they could find a place to lie down at night. Christian Stauffer's family were reported to all be living in one large house with 21 children among them.
Eventually, the Stauffers found a place to live in Ibersheim. This is the German ancestral home of the Stauffers as it appears today. The oldest section is the part with the red roof which was built in 1747. The newest section on the opposite end was added in 1902. The last surviving person in Ibersheim who bears the Stauffer name lives here. She is a 102-year-old widow of a Stauffer and the grandmother of Annette Bergholdt who also lives here with her husband and two children.  
Some of the Stauffers emigrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s but others stayed. This home has been passed down through many generations of the descendants of Christian Stauffer. It stands next to the Mennonite church in Ibersheim. The Bergholdts are members of this church.
When we were there in 1997, they were expecting their first child. When we saw them this weekend, that baby is now almost eighteen years old. Time passes as rapidly on that side of the ocean as it does here! It was good to connect with them again and know they are doing what they can to preserve their Stauffer family history.