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Monday, August 21, 2017

The Heavens Declare

Today was the big day of the 2017 total eclipse. People drove hours from their homes all across the nation to see it and eclipse glasses were the hottest item on the market. It was only about 75% here but enough to darken the house around 2:40 p.m. 
I did not have anything that made it safe to look at the sun so I watched it on a news report on the computer. The crowds in Idaho Falls went wild when the moon totally blocked out the sun in the middle of the day. 

It got dark enough that the street lights came on and stars appeared. The air turned cooler and it was possible to look at the sun without protective glasses for a little over a minute. I could hear people exclaiming and screaming at the sight. 
It was indeed a sight to behold, but the response of the crowd made me think of the verse that says "they worshiped the creature more than the Creator." The only mention I heard of God in the whole time was a repeated "Oh my God!" and it was not said in a worshipful way. 
We heard an excellent sermon Sunday morning on the subject. Our minister said the only reason man can accurately predict the timing and path of the eclipse is because of the orderliness and power of God and the fact that He continues to control all things. 
While a total eclipse is a rare and amazing event, it is more than a phenomena or freak nature show. It is a display of the power of God. 
"The heavens declare the glory of God the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard." Psalm 19:1-3

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Family Pictures

Here are the family pictures I promised would follow. It took us 50 years to get this tribe together. (Click to enlarge)

Family groups left to right--Gerald & Kelly Stauffer, Dale & Tawnya Stauffer with 9 children, us, Daryl & Velma, Cheryl & Richard Miller with 3 children and one daughter-in-law, Gene & Amy Stauffer with 1 son, Jay & Marilyn Martin with 5 children

Our five children, left to right: Gerald, Dale, Gene, Daryl, Cheryl
In order by age: Daryl, Dale, Cheryl, Gene, Gerald

Our five children and a borrowed one, Jay Martin, on left

The grandchildren: Left side, Dale's 9 children; Center, Cheryl's 3 children and Gene's one son in center front; Right side, Jay's 5 children

For this occasion I wanted a full dress formal picture and asked everyone to come dressed like they were at a wedding. Aren't they beautiful!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Golden Anniversary

We were married on July 15, 1967. Our Golden Wedding Anniversary was too far away to even think about at that time. I couldn't imagine all that might happen and how we would look in fifty years. Well, guess what! Fifty years turned out to be a lot shorter than I thought and in 2017, here we are! 
Our children set up a family meeting in January to pick a date to take family pictures and have a party. We went all through June and July until we finally agreed on August 5. With all that everyone had going on, it's good we set the date that far in advance.
We said they had thrown a big party for our fortieth anniversary and we didn't think it was necessary to do that again. We preferred to keep it to family and invite only our children, grandchildren, siblings, and of course, Leroy's mother. How many people still have their mothers when they celebrate their fiftieth anniversary?! So our friends would not be left out, they decided to have a card shower. The cards started coming in July and continued all month. It was like Christmas in July! We got 78 cards in the end. Some had gift cards or money in them. We decided to save the money for the trip we're planning to take to see The Ark this fall.
I wanted to take a full-dress formal family picture for this occasion and made a lot of noise that everyone MUST be there, no exceptions, and appropriately dressed. With a group that size, we were not going to fit in a studio and it would have to be outdoors. The party was also going to be a picnic outdoors. The weather was beyond our control but I watched the forecast daily. The closer we got to the day the better it looked. 
We met at 8 a.m. to take family pictures. It was overcast when we started but by the time we finished the sky was blue. It was perfect! And everyone showed up dressed for a wedding. Because my bridal party wore pink, several thought we should have pink in the color scheme. The colors were any combination of black, white, pink, and gray. Everyone looked so nice all dressed up! I had made a new white dress and carried a half dozen pink roses. I don't have the photographer pictures yet but here's a couple of getting ready to take pictures.

When we finished, the families scattered to get things ready for the party in the evening. Gerald went to the picnic grounds first to set up and start grilling the chicken.

One by one the families arrived bringing their portion of things for the meal. 

By 4 p.m. the guests started to arrive. We were greatly honored that my brother and his wife flew in from northwestern Ontario just to be here for this occasion. They miss a lot of family events and it was really special to have them here. The Lord blessed us with perfect weather. It was a wonderful evening and the food was delicious. It felt strange to sit there and watch them do all the work but they proved they were fully capable of doing it without my help. I can retire!

You can't see it, but our first great-grandchild was here at the left end of the table. (due in January)
I think the celebrating is finished now and we are plowing on, starting our second fifty years.  We have had some rough spots in the first fifty but God is good and we have had a very good life together. I couldn't have wished for anything better.
"O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Loyalty Test Has Arrived

It's been a long time coming, but my tenth book hit the market on Monday. There is always a sense of satisfaction in seeing the product of an idea become reality.
This book is a sequel to my first book, Hidden Riches, which told about my Burkholder ancestors immigrating to Pennsylvania in 1754. That one ended with Christian Burkholder purchasing a copy of the Martyrs Mirror in 1761. The first chapter of this one intentionally overlaps with that one and goes on to tell about the challenges and trials Mennonites and members of other peace churches faced during the Revolutionary War. Christian Burkholder was serving as a bishop in the Mennonite church at that time. 

The book is now being placed in bookstores nationwide and can also be purchased online from Christian Light Publications.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I Owe the Lord a Morning Song

The forty-five minutes I spend walking each morning is my prayer and praise time. This morning I was singing "I Owe the Lord a Morning Song." This hymn was written by a Mennonite minister in Lancaster County, Amos Herr (13 February 1816-19 June 1897).
One Sunday morning in 1890 when the snowdrifts would not permit even horseback riding to church, Amos worshiped at home by writing this hymn. It has lasted longer and blessed more people than any sermon he might have preached had he been able to be in church. Although it is often sung at the beginning of a Sunday morning service, it is a good song for any morning of the week.

  1. I owe the Lord a morning song
    Of gratitude and praise,
    For the kind mercy He has shown
    In length’ning out my days.
  2. He kept me safe another night;
    I see another day;
    Now may His Spirit, as the light,
    Direct me in His way.
  3. Keep me from danger and from sin;
    Help me Thy will to do,
    So that my heart be pure within,
    And I Thy goodness know.
  4. Keep me till Thou wilt call me hence,
    Where never night can be;
    And save me, Lord, for Jesus’ sake—
    He shed His blood for me.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hot Air Balloon

Leroy was saying for quite a few years that he'd like to go for a hot air balloon ride. It seemed like a luxury like that should be for a special occasion. We decided to save it for our 50th wedding anniversary. Our oldest son had some birthday money he was saving for a balloon ride so we agreed to go together. To fit all our schedules we agreed on July 14 which is the day before our anniversary and three days after their 19th anniversary. The weather was the unknown factor but we booked our tickets and hoped for the best.
Yesterday the weather forecast didn't sound good at all for our 6 p.m. ride. The pilot suggested we switch to the 6 a.m. ride so that's what we did. It rained early in the morning but had stopped by 4 a.m. so he let us know the ride is on. 
We had an hour's drive to the launching site and when we got there the balloon was inflated and ready to go.

The hardest part was getting in the basket. I didn't expect it to be so deep. I needed a step stool and a boost from Daryl to get in and out. And then my chin just cleared the rim of the basket. I stood on my tiptoes to take this picture before we left. The basket held ten passengers and it was fully loaded.

The Lancaster County farm land is lush and green with the regular rains we've had this year. It looks like a patchwork quilt from above.

We were up in the air about an hour and then the pilot said his radar showed rain coming again and we have to bring it down. We landed in a hay field that had recently been mowed. The ground crew deflated the balloon and stuffed the 675 pounds of fabric in a big bag.

After the bag and basket were in the back of a trailer, they brought out some champagne to toast our successful flight. We said, "just the orange juice, thank you." The goblets were ours to keep. 
After that, we and Daryls went into the Bird-in-Hand restaurant for breakfast. Before we had our food it was pouring again. We didn't get a crystal clear day but the Lord held back the rain until we were through.
One more thing checked off our bucket list!

Monday, July 10, 2017

300th Anniversary

No, not mine. We're married a mere 50 years. I mean the 300th anniversary of Groffdale.
Hans Groff emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania in the late 1600s or early 1700s. The first written document for him in Pennsylvania is a deed dated 1704 which shows he purchased 84 acres of land north of Germantown. By the time he sold it in 1715, he was living at Strasburg in what is now Lancaster County. He warranted (claimed) 300 acres in 1714 which he sold in 1718 after he warranted 1150 acres in West Earl Township.
According to the often-repeated story, while Hans was living in the Strasburg area, his horses wandered away. In his search for them, he found a spring in a fertile valley north of his home. He determined to live there and in 1717 moved his family to what became known as Groffdale. A few years later the Weaver brothers followed him north and began another settlement a few miles east of Groffdale that is known as Weaverland. These two settlements were the nucleus of the Mennonite community north of the city of Lancaster.
Hans Groff built a log house near this spring which is still strong today and the stream that flows from it is stocked with trout.

The Groffdale Mennonite Church was established with the arrival of Hans and his family. More settlers soon followed. Worship services were held in the homes of the members on a rotating basis until 1755 when the first log meetinghouse was built on some of Hans Groff's land. 
Church divisions in 1893 and 1927 resulted in three Groffdale Mennonite congregations. The first Groffdale congregation remained on the same spot and is part of the Lancaster Conference. The first division in 1893 formed the Weaverland Conference and the group that left Lancaster Conference erected a new Groffdale Mennonite meetinghouse a mile or two away from the first one. The second division in 1927 formed the Groffdale Conference. Rather than build a third meetinghouse, the Weaverland and Groffdale Conference congregations use the same building but on alternating Sundays. So one Sunday the parking lot is filled with black cars and the next Sunday with horses and buggies.
The three Groffdale Mennonite congregations joined hands on July 7-8 to commemorate their shared 300-year history at Groffdale. A meeting was held on Friday evening, July 7, in which all three congregations led in singing from their respective hymnals. Then historian John Ruth spoke on the history of the area. After his presentation, the minister of the Lancaster Conference church presented a great gift to the Muddy Creek Library which is operated by the Weaverland Conference. 
In preparation for this anniversary, the Lancaster Conference church opened their safe and found in it a 1748 Martyrs Mirror and a 1763 Saur Bible. They decided these books are no good to anyone while locked in a safe and should be somewhere that they will be preserved and accessible to others. So they gave Muddy Creek Library the choice between the two books. After some deliberation, Muddy Creek decided to take the Bible. This is the large German Bible that would have been kept on the preacher's table for the minister to use while preaching. 
My ancestor, Christian Burkholder, was ordained as bishop at Groffdale in 1778 and would have used this Bible. It is in very good condition and I was thrilled to be able to see and touch something my ancestor used in the 1700s. I'll get a picture of it someday.
There was an all-day bus tour of Groffdale on July 8. We started at the Lancaster Conference church and then went to the Weaverland/Groffdale Conference church. From there, the two tour buses drove in opposite circles in a five-mile radius around Groffdale to see some of the notable spots in Groffdale's history. Here are a few highlights.

Hans Groff's Ausbund
1742 Ausbund hymnbook owned by Hans Groff which contains his signature and was passed on to his son Samuel Groff. The handwriting at the top of the page says "This book belongs to me Hans Groff. It cost six shillings."

 Peter Summy's house. 
Hans Peter Summy arrived in Philadelphia in 1733. He was a minister at Groffdale. It is believed this house at 207 Wissler Road on Jacob Summey's property was his home. It is probably the most unchanged dwelling in the Groffdale area. 

Christian Wenger's barn. 
Christian Wenger worked for Hans Groff and then bought 289 acres to the west. At 317 Brethren Church Road, the original house still stands, but addidions were built to every side. The stone part of the barn is still original. This is a very unusual construction with three stone arches on the ground floor. Two of the arches on the end have been closed up with cement blocks. One of them now has a door and the other a window, but they were originally like the one that is still open on the back side of the barn.

Samuel Groff's house
In 1738, Hans Groff sold 219 acres to his son Samuel Groff. There are two old houses with arch cellars and steep roofs on this tract, but both have been reconstructed. This farm at 357 Hershey Avenue was sold to Samuel's daughter Mary married to Joseph Horst. The date stone on this house says "Rebuilt 1854 by Jacob and Magdalena Hoover." The date stone on the second house says "Rebuilt 1847 by Jacob and Magdalena Hoover." 

Samuel Groff patent
A patent is a deed granting land from the Penn family to the first European owner. This is an original 1743 sheepskin patent for 64 acres from the Penn family to Samuel Groff. The Penn seal was attached to the blue ribbon at the bottom of the patent. These big round clay seals are often damaged, broken or missing. This one is damaged.

Christian Burkholder's land as seen from the Fairmount hill. My ancestor, Bishop Christian Burkholder, owned the entire Fairmount hill as well as the land on three sides of it. He married Hans Groff's granddaughter, Anna, which makes me a descendant of Hans Groff.
Lloyd Weiler wrote, "When Hans Groff purchased a large tract of land, he was investing in and directing the future of his children and their descendants. By believing in the virtues of family life, bearing responsibilities and vigorous labors, and staying close to the soil, he and his friends transmitted a legacy that has been maintained to this day." May we, his descendants, never forget and cease to appreciate our heritage.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

God Bless America

If this was 1776 I could be hung as a traitor for what I am about to say. I've been thinking about this a long time. While studying the Revolutionary War to write my newest book I became more convinced that it was the result of political and religious struggles rooted in Europe. The immigrants didn't leave their feelings behind when they sailed away from Europe but imported their prejudices and opinions along with their bodies when they stepped ashore in North America. 
The English and Irish have been feuding for centuries and it continued into my lifetime. The Scots-Irish Presbyterians were the hot heads who stirred up the rebellion in New England that spread down through the colonies. The Episcopalians were the American version of the Anglican Church of England that formed because they refused to swear allegiance to the king. The Presbyterians and Episcopalian ministers preached independence from their pulpits with such fervor they were called "the black regiment."
We were taught in history class that King George III was a tyrant and the cry for independence was raised by the majority of the colonists. That is simply not true. The majority of the general public was satisfied with British rule. The loud organized voice of the minority drowned out the voice of the unorganized majority, much as we see today with the gay and transgender "rights" movement.
Our founding fathers were not deeply religious men of God nor was the nation solidly founded on Christian principles. Benjamin Franklin was not a member of any church. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams maintained membership in the Episcopal and Congregational (Puritan) churches in which they were raised but embraced Unitarian theology which denies the Trinity. George Washington’s diary contains no references to God and shows he did not attend worship services regularly. When he did go to church, he refused to kneel for prayer. The Declaration of Independence mentions God but states that government gets its  authority from the people (rather than from God), who have the right to alter or abolish it and form a new government which seems to be in their best interest. The Constitution makes no mention of God or acknowledgement of Him.
We have been fed a line in history class that is skewed and littered with myths of things that never happened. Two examples of embroidered history commonly repeated are George Washington kneeling in the snow to pray at Valley Forge and Patrick Henry’s famous statement, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Both were conceived many years after the fact, and there is no historical evidence to support either story.
Canada stayed and still is under British rule. Would we really be much worse off if we were like Canada? If we were, we would not be having this big political battle over health care because it would be nationalized. Was King George III really a tyrant? Was he any worse than some of the ungodly and inept presidents the United States have elected in the past and present? I'm not about to move to Canada, but if I had been living during the Revolutionary War might I have been part of the exodus that went north to stay under the crown?
I do appreciate the freedom we have in this country. I pray for our leaders, pay my taxes, and obey the laws. And I pray that America will repent of her evil ways and be a truly Christian nation. Then God will abundantly bless America.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Medical Witchcraft

The visiting minister who preached at our church this morning said something that was new to me and got me to thinking. He read Galatians 5 which I had often heard before. In this chapter the "works of the flesh" are contrasted with the "fruit of the spirit." 
In the list of the works of the flesh is witchcraft. That word immediately flashes on my mind the image of a voodo witch doctor who uses spells, potions, and charms for physical healing. Think again! The Greek word translated witchcraft is pharmakeia  (far-mak-i'-ah) and is where we get our word "pharmacy." It means medication, i.e. (by extension) magic (literally or figuratively). This is what Wikipedia says about witchcraft:
Witchcraft often occupies a religious, divinatory or medicinal role, and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view. 
Now I am not about to say that all medication is witchcraft. There are certainly legitimate reasons for taking medicine when we need it. But there are some kinds of medication that are witchcraft. The most obvious one is illegal drugs or drug abuse. People turn to drugs to try fill the void in their lives instead of turning to God and putting their faith in Him. It's just a different kind of witchcraft. 
How far can we take that principle of putting our faith in medicine instead of God? What about all the alternative and holistic methods of healing? Products like Plexus and Essential Oils (and many others) that claim to be good for whatever ails you (and IMHO mostly benefit the wallet of the seller)? Foot rubs and a host of other kinds of alternative therapies that gullible Christian people get involved in practicing? Many of these are rooted in idolatrous Oriental religions.
I can't say it any better than Wikipedia:
Alternative medical diagnoses and treatments are not taught as part of science-based curricula in medical schools, and are not used in any practice where treatment is based on scientific knowledge or proven experience. Alternative therapies are often based on religion, tradition, superstition, belief in supernatural energies, pseudoscience, errors in reasoning, propaganda, fraud, or lies.
I remember when I was a girl I saw an old Indian who was handling snakes and selling bottles of something. It looked creepy to me. I asked my mother what he was doing and don't remember her exact words but she let me know we don't even listen to that talk and we definitely don't buy their snake oil. I know now that it was a form of witchcraft. But how many things like that are we falling for today without realizing we are dabbling in witchcraft? 
 2 Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cabin Weekend

For about thirty years my sisters and I went to the cabin to clean and open it for the season. We had a lot of good times at the cabin with our families but as time moved on and our families changed, we decided the time had come to let it go and sold it two years ago. We sisters had gone to the cabin every spring too long to break the habit. We decided we can still go to a cabin together by renting one. 
Last year we went to a cabin in Union County and it was wonderful. We could just relax and visit without having to work all day Saturday. Let someone else have the expense and upkeep of a cabin. Renting one for one weekend a year is a lot cheaper than owning your own. Besides, it was a lot more luxurious than our cabin had been. It had a dishwasher, air conditioning, and the works. We're old enough now to enjoy such luxuries (even though I don't have them at home). 
At the end of that weekend we thought of what we should have done. Instead of going the first weekend in June we should have gone the last weekend when our Canadian brother, Merle, would be here and both our brothers could go with us. 
Merle was scheduled to preach at our church in Myerstown on Sunday morning so we had to find a cabin that wasn't too far from church. We found one at Pine Grove and reserved it in January for the last weekend in June. It was great to have all five of us siblings together for a weekend.

This cabin is called Barnwood Lodge because it was built with wood the owner salvaged from a barn that was torn down. Most of the furniture was also repurposed but it was tastefully done. And again, there was central air, a dishwasher, and central vac, none of which I have at home. Cabins sure aren't what they used to be. I grew up with a cabin that had no electric, running water, or bathroom. We thought we really had something when we got electric in it!

There was plenty of time for round table discussions. Lots of stories and remember-whens.

On Saturday afternoon we hiked back an old railroad bed to Siegrist Reservoir.

 I sat and enjoyed the view while the rest of them walked back the trail to the river behind the dam.

We played lots of corn hole games. Carol got pretty good at it and threw all four bags in the hole at least four times.

We made mountain pies for supper. Nothing can beat the taste of food cooked over a wood fire. We were blessed with perfect weather for all these outdoor activities.

We all went to church Sunday morning and went back to the cabin for lunch and the afternoon. The weekend was such a success the consensus was that we would like to do it again next year. Why not? I think we just started a new version of a tradition.

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.