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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Loyalty Test

My newest book is ready to go to the printer. At last! This one has been a long time coming. I had the idea for years to write a story about the effects the Revolutionary War had on the Mennonites and members of other peace churches. So many things happened to so many people I didn't know how to handle it. Who would be the main character? How could things that happened to other people be woven into the story? 
When I shared this idea and problem with my sister she immediately said the main character could be Christian Burkholder. Hmmmm. Good idea. Christian was a bishop during the war and an outstanding leader in the Mennonite church. In this office, he would have heard about things that happened to other people and in other areas. The tightly closed bud of the idea began to open and take shape.
My first book, Hidden Riches, told the story of Christian Burkholder emigrating with his family from Europe to Pennsylvania in 1754. Obviously, another book about Christian would be a sequel to Hidden Riches and published by the same publisher. I began scribbling. The first chapter intentionally overlaps with the last chapter of Hidden Riches, telling about Christian buying his Martyrs Mirror in 1761 and the last one is about the publishing of his Anrede book in 1804. 
My love of history ran away with me in the first draft. It was so top heavy with all the history that was so fascinating to me that it was more like a text book than a story. It would have bored the average story reader. So out came the surgical knife. Big portions and whole chapters were sliced out. It was painful but the story improved and I survived the surgery. 
After the manuscript was accepted by Christian Light Publications, the long wait for the finished product began. Editors went through it with a fine tooth comb and it moved to the graphics department where it languished in the backlog for months waiting its turn.
This week I got the proof copy to proofread one last time. It is now ready to go to the printer and should be on the market in four to six weeks. This is my tenth book but there is always a sense of satisfaction in seeing an idea come to fruition and holding the finished product. My hope and prayer is that Christian's example will be a tool to educate and encourage readers to hold fast to the faith passed down through the generations to us today.

click to enlarge

Sunday, June 4, 2017

What Goes Around

Fads are funny things. How do they develop? Who decides what's IN and when it's OUT? Some things move from fad to standard practice (like pants on women) and others fade out only to come around again in the next generation as something new.
For example, when I was a teenager we combed our hair over our ears and wore our buns low on our necks. The old ladies at church had their ears exposed and put their buns high on their heads with their coverings perched on top. When my daughter was a teenager she combed her hair like that and I told her it makes her look like an old lady. Now her daughter is a teenager and she combs her hair over her ears and wears her bun low on her neck like I did when I was a teenager. And my daughter tells her it makes her look like an old lady. I predict that by the time my granddaughter has a granddaughter the thing will circle around again.
Colors also come and go. In the 70s green and gold were the popular colors. Appliances even came in avocado green. In the 90s my daughter was a bridesmaid in a wedding. The wedding colors were peach and mint green and her bridesmaid dress was peach. Those were the popular colors at the time. Last fall her son was married and the wedding colors were--guess what?--peach and mint green. As mother of the groom she wore a dress in the same shade of peach as she had worn as a bridesmaid about twenty-six years earlier. 
I tried to think how many fads have I seen come and go and came up with a short list. I'm sure there were a lot more than I can think of at the moment. Younger people probably wouldn't even know what some of them are. And this doesn't even include words and phrases like "groovy" or "in the groove" that have come and gone.

Fads I have seen come and go:
black and white saddle shoes
bobby socks
poodle skirts
pop bead necklaces
fender skirts on cars
shoes with pointy toes
spike heels
mini skirt
paisley shirts for men
boat neckline
straight (tight) skirt
teased (beehive) hair on girls
flat top haircuts on boys
bell bottom pants
plaid pants for men
clunky square high heels on women's shoes
leisure suits
shift dresses
huge eyeglass lenses
pet rocks
8-track players

Some fads today include scarves, leggings, unnatural colors dyed in hair, tattoos and body piercings. Let me hasten to say that I don't know any self-respecting people in our circles who do the last three on that list and it remains to be seen how long they will last. But I do see scarves and leggings on our people. We have a church rule that men are not to wear neckties so how it is acceptable for women to hang things around their necks? It looks tacky to me, especially when they are big and puffy. One young woman who heard about the tights girls wore years ago said, "Oh! Leggings with feet." Yup. Leggings are nothing new, they just cut the feet off.  Maybe when the little girls who wear leggings today are grandmas someone will come up with a great idea and they'll say, "Those are just leggings with feet." What goes around comes around!
All you have to do is pull out your old pictures and you'll soon be saying "what were we thinking?" or "You can tell that was the 70s (or 80s or 90s)." We do well to consider what we accept before we jump on the bandwagon. It may just be a fad that someday we'll look back, wonder why we did that, and laugh at ourselves.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


The month of May is almost over and schools are rapidly closing their doors. Some will continue into early June but the local newspaper is printing graduation reports almost every day. 
We had two graduations in the family this month, on opposite ends of the scale. Granddaughter Arianna Miller graduated from Antrim Mennonite School with a high school diploma on May 12.

Grayson Stauffer graduated from Gentle Rain Preschool at the Zion Blue Mountain church on May 25. Here is his official photo taken in advance.

I went to the graduation because I thought that would be cute and it was. There were 50 four and five year olds who marched in to the traditional Pomp and Circumstance wearing paper mortarboards. They stood up front and sang three songs. Some were really into singing and others stood like statues. 

As each one was called up to receive their diploma they were asked what they want to be when they grow up. There were quite a few police officers and veterinarians. Some changed their minds on the spot. One little girl wants to be a mermaid and several want to be a princess. Grayson said he wants to be a baker. The winner (to me) was a little boy who said he wants to be "a dad like my dad."

At the end of the program each one received a carnation as they filed out with their diplomas.

And here is the newest graduate in the family (after the fact), the first to ever graduate from preschool. Maybe his smile would fade if he knew how many more years of school lie ahead of him. He'll start down that road by going to kindergarten this fall. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mennonite Subculture

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Family Weekend

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

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

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

The men and boys went fishing

and boating

and launched some rockets

and did some archery target shooting.

Some sat and visited or rested

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Public Auction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Year's At The Spring

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017


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