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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Family Sale

Leroy's mother decided she wants to sell out and go to a Home. She surprised us when she announced her decision but I'm sure she will like being in a Home with more company and no responsibilities. At the age of 93, I don't blame her for not wanting to take care of her own house anymore.
In the process of preparing to make this change, she had a private family-only sale on Saturday for things she thought should stay in the family or that the family might want. When we had my mother's estate sale, I was the main bidder. This time it was Leroy's turn to be the main bidder. I helped with the clerking as this was entirely a family affair and no professional auctioneer was involved. 
All of our children were there and bought what appealed to them. As auctions go, some things sold for more than they were actually worth and others for less. We didn't get everything we had hoped to but are satisfied with what we got. And we also have the satisfaction of knowing that what we didn't get is still in the family. 
As far as I know, no one went away with bitter feelings about anything. I know too many stories of families that things did not go well and people were bitter for years afterward. It is a blessing to be part of a family that can get along and respect each other even though we don't all agree on all points.
The big deal for our family in this sale was a pedal tractor we badly wanted to buy back. Back in the 1970s, Leroy rescued it from the junk pile at the place he worked. The axle was broken so he fixed it and our oldest boys played with it---hard. They had pretty much worn it out. Then Leroy's dad said he would buy us a new one in exchange for it and we took him up on the offer. The old one sat in his shop for years and then he finally restored it. He knew it was a rare valuable model from the 1950s. 
We really wanted to buy it back but how many others would like to have it? We did not know. Our children discussed it among themselves and agreed which one of them should buy it. When the bidding began, he put a reasonable opening bid on it and we held our breath to see who would bid against him and where it might end. Not one other person bid!! And he got it for his first bid. We did not expect that to happen. After it was knocked off to him, he stood up and said, "Is everyone ok with this? It's worth more than that." Everyone was ok with it and showed it with a round of applause. It brings tears every time I think about it. What a blessing to be part of such a gracious family! Instead of a fight, there was applause.
Our son took the tractor home and presented it to his five-year-old son who is named for his great-grandpa who restored the tractor.

Another example of this gracious family involved our youngest son. He didn't have a lot of money to spend and didn't buy much because he was hoping to buy the kitchen table and chairs. They were not sold until the end of the sale. He did bid on the grandmother clock but let it go because he was waiting for the table and chairs. He did not get them and at the end of the sale had almost nothing. He went to his cousin who had bought the clock and asked about it. The cousin immediately agreed to sell it for what he had paid. He said he didn't want it that bad and was happy to pass it on to someone who really wanted it. So our son added a ten dollar tip to the purchase price and was delighted to have a very nice keepsake after all.
We and our children were all together for supper after the sale and of course there was a recap. One of the older sons said it's nice to have some keepsakes but "we must remember that eventually the groundhogs will be bringing our mail." In other words, we will leave everything behind when we leave this world. All these things are only ours to use while we are here. So it's not worth having a family feud over things that are only temporary.
Kudos to the Stauffer family for a successful family sale!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the Declaration of Independence. These are said to be three "unalienable rights" which have been given to all human beings by their Creator. It is only the pursuit of happiness, not the feeling of happiness, that is an unalienable right.
The Inspire 2017 women's seminar was held in Indiana over the weekend. I didn't go but watched videos of the sessions via the Internet. Dorcas Smucker was the main speaker. Of all the things she said, the one I liked the most was her illustration on happiness.
Happiness, Dorcas said, is a feeling. It is like a big dog in the back of your pickup truck. It's nice to have him along but you don't let him drive the truck. Neither do we let our feelings drive our lives. We may not be happy about the way things are in life but that does not mean we have to be miserable. We can still have joy when circumstances are not conducive to happiness. I can testify to that!
There have been many times in my life when I was not happy. When there was too much month left at the end of the money and no improvement in sight . . . when the children were constantly squabbling and uncooperative . . . when someone disgraced the family name and I knew we were the hottest gossip topic . . . when I was grieving the death of a son (twice). . . when I was stretched too thin and expected to do more than I was capable of doing properly . . . when things broke at the most inopportune time . . . when I sat by the bed of my son in the hospital (more than once) . . . 
You get the picture. None of these things made me happy. Quite the opposite. But happiness is not the necessary for joy. While I was in the depth of grief after the death of my son, I played music all day long. I couldn't sing audibly but the music gave me comfort and joy that overruled the pursuit of happiness. I could have joy without a dog in the back of the truck.
When we allow our feelings to drive the truck, the pursuit of happiness consumes our lives. No matter what we have, we are constantly chasing after more or new things. But we don't have to be happy to have joy. The joy of the Lord helps us bear and get through the unhappy circumstances. And even if nothing changes, we know He is with us. There is joy in sorrow and hope in hopeless situations. Happiness is nice but not required.

Three men were walking on a wall,
Feeling, Faith, and Fact.
When Feeling took an awful fall
and Faith was taken back.
So close was Faith to Feeling
that he stumbled and fell too.
But Fact remained and pulled up Faith,
and Faith brought Feeling too.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Praying Hands

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”
All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No …no …no …no.”
Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.”
Moral: The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one – no one – ever makes it alone!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Wear Out or Rust Out

We are a week into the new year and I haven't posted anything yet. That's not because I've been twiddling my thumbs. I did take one day off this week and pretty much slept all day due to a bug my husband generously shared with me, thank you very much. Otherwise, I've been trying to cram as much into this month as I can. 
Normally, I have a list of things I want to accomplish during the winter, start on it in October, and try to finish by April. I don't have that luxury this year as I am scheduled to speak in 13 schools in February and March, beginning February 1 and then one more to finish up on May 10. I'm scrambling to get my 2016 pictures scrapbooked this month. If I can get those done, updating the family and friends books can be worked in later in small doses. There are also other things to take care of this month such as getting the papers filled out to file taxes, a writing project to work on, and a dress to sew---if I get that far. These all have to be fit in around the usual housework, volunteer and babysitting days, and other appointments. I'm not sitting around getting bored! 
Sometimes I wonder if I've done anything worthwhile with my time. Sure, I wrote some books but have they done anyone any good? I get a report twice a year on the sales of my books but hear from very few readers. 
I was blessed at the end of last year to be forwarded two letters that came to the publisher. The first one was from a lady in Cuba who wrote (in Spanish) after reading the Spanish translation of Sandi's Anchor of Hope. She enjoyed the book and was introduced to the Mennonite church through it. She called it "a beautiful book."
The second letter came from a man who read Aaron's Civil War. I don't know where he lives but he said he saw the book in the gift shop of a restaurant in Lancaster and was attracted to it because of his interest in the Civil War. He wrote that he did not realize until he began to read that this was a true story of a real person and he was moved to tears at the end. He was touched deeply enough to write a thank you note for the book.
I don't expect or even want to hear from everyone who reads one of my books, but it is nice once in awhile to know someone was touched deeply enough to come back to say thank you. I was being tempted to say it's time to retire. But now I'm encouraged to go on doing what I can to spread the Good News of hope and salvation. I'd rather wear out than rust out.