Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Summer is Winding Down

I can look out my window and see that summer is beginning to fade. The tree leaves are looking shaggy and the flowers are losing their vibrant colors. That late summer buzzing of the grasshoppers and cicadas are a constant noise and the nights are growing increasingly chilly.

This makes me sad every year! Though I enjoy the cooler autumn temperatures, the reminder that winter is not too far away makes me sigh. In Ohio, winter gets an early grip and clings tenaciously to our homes and yards...it feels long and dreary because the sun is so often obscured by gray clouds. Night comes early and closes us in...I ALWAYS miss the hours of sunlight. If I had to put my finger on the thing that depresses me most about winter, it would be the lack of sunlight all day and the early darkness of the night. I tend to hurry into rooms during the winter months, turning on the lights and keeping the shadows at bay as long as possible.

Those coming months of winter seem to be hiding out in each drooping flower bud and each shaggy leaf that falls from the trees, even though the sun is still shining and the temperatures are still soaring high on the thermometer. I have to focus my sight on the here and now and not think about what may be just around the corner in September and October.

I have to do this in my life, too. I have to keep my focus on today and what the Lord is bringing to me just this hour and the next and the next. I want to savour His love and blessings in the halcyon summer days of my soul. I can't let myself reflect on what may be coming in my life-just ahead-or in the next months. The Amish are fond of saying that it's good that we don't know the future...BUT there is one scenario in my future that I am ever grateful for knowing ahead of time. It's this: when the Lord decides the end of my days here on earth, I KNOW where He plans to bring my soul...I know He plans to gather my soul to Him. This is one future plan that I LOVE knowing! The winter of my life may be just around the corner, but my soul will awake to eternal summer some day!

How about you? Is your soul's future known to you? It can be...and how wonderful to know that Heaven's summer is sure and true, no matter what the winters of life may bring.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, up-right and godly lives in this present age. While we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Titus 2:11-14

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fiction Friday: Memories Like A String of Pearls

I love everything about the 1930's and 1940's and this story reflects that interest. For more great fiction, go to Joanne Sher's blog, An Open Book

Memories Like a String of Pearls

The trombones slid over the notes the Glenn Miller band had made famous, and the sweet cool air carried the tune across the lake where David and I walked. He guided me to a bench where the moon shone down like a spotlight.

I fingered the soft pearls on the necklace David had given me for graduation.

“When do you leave?” I asked softly.

“Day after tomorrow. I’ve got to be at the depot by 7:00. We’ll take the train to Fort Bragg from there.”

His deep, chocolate brown eyes met mine, and he looked at me so intently, I could hardly stand to look back. He took my hand and slowly kissed the back of it. I saw him smile as he pulled his lips away.

“I plan to marry you in two years, Katherine,” he said quietly.

“I know.”

“And I plan on coming to visit at Christmas if I get my leave,” he continued.

“Even if you have to hitch-hike, right?” I laughed.

“You know it, Kathy.”

I turned my head toward the pavilion. The band was playing String of Pearls, * and through the windows, I could see our friends inside, swinging to the tempo. David tapped his foot in time to the music and suddenly pulled me up. We danced the song out and then laughed at our silliness as we headed back to join the others.

Later, upstairs in my bedroom, I sat by the window that overlooked our front yard. The breeze billowed the voile curtains against my cheeks, and the late summer crickets chirped a tune in the night. My Bible lay open in my lap, but I hadn’t read it. I was thinking about my life and what it would be like being married to David. I could imagine our little house with a fence, maybe an apple orchard, two children, and David.

My plans made me smile, but when I remembered where he was headed, my smile faltered. I opened my Bible to the Psalms and read the chapters, one after another until I could barely see the words any more. I went to sleep with tears drying on my cheeks and God’s promises resting in my heart.

“Hey, Kath!”

“David! Where’re you calling from?”

“You know I can’t tell you that, Fraulein,” he hinted with a laugh.

“I miss you, David”

“…miss you, too, Kath-“

“I can’t hear you, David…there’s too much static…”

“I said…you, too! I’ll be home for Christm…”

My heart sank when I realized the line had gone dead, but the surprise of hearing his voice, all the way from Germany, brought a smile to my lips.

Christmas was only two weeks away now, and I’d see him again. I helped my family string the lights on the tree while we listened to the news on the radio.

“Yesterday, heavy fighting along the Mosel River claimed many American lives,” the announcer intoned. Mother looked quickly at Daddy, and he got up and shut the radio off.

“I feel like Christmas carols tonight,” he said heartily. “Mother, why don’t you get the book out, and we’ll all sing together?”

That was just like dear Daddy, but my heart was aching.

That night, I poured my fears out to God. I begged Him to have mercy on David and me. “Don’t let it be David, God,” I cried.

The next few days, I shopped and baked as usual. The news from Germany grew bleaker, and I kept my Bible opened to Psalm 23. My family tried their best to cheer me, but I felt a desolation and sorrow that I couldn’t shake.

Christmas Eve came and we attended candlelight services with our neighbors and friends. The war that raged in Europe and the Pacific pulled our spirits down; the service was subdued. Two families were already grieving their sons, and I didn’t want to look at them. I couldn’t be reminded.

Fat lazy snowflakes fell as we walked home from church, and the lights shining from the houses along Main felt warm and inviting, but tears stung my eyes. When we came to our house, a uniformed man sat with his duffel bag on the front steps.

“David!” I cried as I ran to him.

He hugged me to his chest as his laugh covered my sorrow like a balm.

“Kath, Oh, Kath,” he whispered.

I’ll never forget that Christmas of 1943. It was the last time I saw my sweet David.

*String of Pearls, Words and Music by Eddie Le Lange and Jerry Gray, Recorded by Glenn Miller, 1942

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Girl I Used To Be

Today I spent time with old family friends. We searched through a basket of photos taken over a twenty year time span. I came across many pictures of me as a girl and it was an odd feeling. I was instantly projected backward in time to the days the photos were taken. I could remember the settings, the people, and the season that each one represented. A few photos made me laugh. One in particular caught my eye because I look so ornery and mischievous in it! I remember that it was taken in my new school in Griffith, Indiana. I'm amazed by the openness and happiness I seem to be projecting because I have distinct memories of feeling scared and lonely in that school:

A few years later, I have a photo of me standing by a train station in Germany. I can remember feeling very insecure there...not exactly sure of myself, yet in the photo, I appear to be a confident hippie-chick:

One thing's for sure, the images we present are not always reflective of the way we feel inside. That's why I'm happy to read this verse:

"...the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward, but the Lord looks at the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

It's good to know that the Lord sees my heart...and understands my needs before I ask. I don't have to present a perfect facade for Him to accept me just the way I am: mischievous girl or hippie-chick, He knows me inside out!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blog Award

Thank you to Laura and Joanne for the blog award-I really appreciate your kind words about my blog!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Sometimes we have showers of blessings from the Lord and we know we are being showered. Sometimes the blessings come like little drops of rain and we still know we are being blessed, but we feel dry spells between. Sometimes, our blessings appear few and far between. We get scratchy dry throats and parched souls from not feeling that lovely moisture from Heaven. Those are the days when we really need to stop and realize that many of God's blessings are given to us as we wake each morning. No big ta-da!, no trumpet fanfare, so we forget they are blessings.

Today I want to be grateful for those unseen and often ignored blessings. Here are some of them: a healthy son and husband, a home that is dry, comfy, and cool, a car that gets me from point A to point B without too much trouble, a family that cares for me, friends, the ability to write, a laptop to write upon, and freedom to pursue my dreams as I wish. Oh! So many, many lovely blessings from His hand...my delighted heart can't contain them all and to the Lord I give praise and glory for raining down on me each day these many "invisible" blessings!

"May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you." Psalm 67:5

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fiction Friday: Red John's Leah: A Rumspringen Summer

My Friday Fiction this week is an Amish story. For more great fiction, go to Pattering's Blog

Red John's Leah: A Rumspringen Summer

The night air grew heavy with promised rain as Red John’s Leah waited for her friends. It was her rumspringen, or running around, summer and Leah never missed an opportunity to leave the stifling confines of her parent’s home when Matthew, Henry, and Rachel came for her. After supper every evening, Leah watched for Matthew’s dark blue Chevy to pull into the lane. Her parents, Red John and Ruth Yoder, kept their heads turned as Leah gathered her things and went out the door.

Since the day she turned 14, she longed for her turn at rumspringen. Her parent’s disapproval had held her back three years, but this summer, she hadn’t hesitated. She’d known that Matthew would soon be ready to settle down and join the church. They’d get married and her days to taste freedom from the Ordnung, the church’s laws, would be over. Day after day in the store where she worked, she’d silently watched the Englisher girls shopping, laughing; wearing their make-up and pretty clothes and her heart grew restless. Their lives seemed easy and most of all, free. But this summer, each evening after work, Leah had her turn to do what the other girls did. She rode in a car with the windows down through the hot summer nights; she cranked up the music as she laughed and danced with her friends the way the Englisher’s did.

She wished her parents wouldn’t look so hurt every time she went out with her friends. They didn’t understand that she wasn’t like her sister, Mary. When the time came for Mary to decide about the church, she never hesitated. No thought of rumspringen entered Mary’s head; she joined her parents in the church without question.

Leah felt sure that the taste she would get of the Englisher’s world would not cause her to turn her back on her Old Order Amish family and its ways. Her parents, however, were not. None of their other children had felt the need for it until Leah, and she knew they worried about her.

“Hey, girl, join the world,” said Rachel, interrupting Leah’s thoughts.

“I’m thinking, Ok?”

Henry laughed. “Leah’s thinking of you, Matthew, and the day you two get settled down.”

Matthew’s smile was shy and embarrassed as he nodded firmly. “Jah, Leah and I
will have a gut life together, won’t we?” he asked Leah.

“Do you think the hochtzich will be this fall?” probed Rachel.

Leah glanced at Matthew from the corner of her eye and waited for his response. Rachel was always trying to get them to talk about their wedding, but they wanted to keep it a secret. Besides, Matthew hadn’t officially asked her yet. Also, though she was positive her parents would agree to the marriage, Leah knew they blamed Matthew for the rumspringen. She and Matthew would have to join the church and smooth things over with her family before further talk of marriage.

Leah and Rachel changed their clothes in the bathroom of the local fast food place before re-joining Matthew and Henry in the car. They drove a few blocks to the theater.

As Leah sat in the darkened room with her friends, she was conscious of the feel of the denim jeans against her skin, her hair loose on her neck, and guilt that crept into her heart each time she came here. The growing guilt made her wonder if she was closer to accepting a lifetime of commitment to the Ordnung.

After they dropped Rachel and Henry off at their houses, Leah and Matthew sat in the car which he’d parked in the over-grown farmer’s road near his Daet’s barn. He’d hidden it there all summer so his parents and their Amish neighbors couldn’t see it.

They talked about their future together, but finally, Matthew told her he was ready to join the church.

“I’ve had fun, Leah, but I’m tired of rumspringen. It’s time for me to grow up. What do you think?”

Leah looked out the window. She listened to the music playing softly on the radio and thought of Maem and Daet. The commitment to her church and family still felt heavy sometimes, but she sensed her heart needed the ties. She was no longer a little girl and the Englisher life didn’t tug at her spirit as much now.

Yes, it was time to grow up. She looked at Matthew and nodded.

He grinned. “Gut! I’ll sell the car to Henry in the morning.”

Author’s note: In some Amish communities, teens nearing adulthood can “sow their wild oats”, called rumspringen in Pennsylvania Deitch. They may be allowed to drive cars, wear modern clothing and do other things English (non-Amish) teens might do. Hiding the car or parking it in an inconspicuous place is a way for teens to own it without offending their parents. After a season of rumspringen, most Amish teens will choose to join the church. In Amish families, because of the many common names, the wife and children of an Amish man will often have their husband’s or father’s first name placed before their first name to identify which family they belong to. For example, a wife might be known as John Ruth.