The Story of an Old Order Mennonite Girl

Circle Letters: The Story of an Old Order Mennonite Girl - A Memoir by Aleta M. Schrock

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1000 Gifts: My List #82-103

82. I am a woman blessed of God.
83. The lime-green-fade-into-white wide striped curtains hanging in my dining and living room.
84. Lebanon Bologna.
85. Sipping hot licorice tea.
86. Rest at the end of the day.
87. Deep relaxing breaths.
88. Life.
89. An unknown friend pausing to answer my desperate question posted on the abyss of the internet. Thank you.
90. Feeling my neurons connecting and creating a new pathway when I learn something new.
91. Feeling my spirit connecting with His Spirit when I read a Truth about his word.
92. A good book that helps me become more like Him.
93. Fluffy white-out snow that softens the harsh outlines of the world.
94. Gray snowstorm skies fading into white fluffiness as we drive to Michigan City.

95. A deep peek-a-blue patch of sky between fluffy white billows.
96. Laughter with family and friends.
97. This new camera my husband bought for me.
98. Technology.
99. The old typewriter I pecked away on in college.
100. That Jesus loved stories and told them frequently.
101. Finding an old story written by a student months ago… a student who today has me sighing and praying… and the student’s story ends with the words …and I love Mrs. Ellsworth, too.
102. Expecting a student to test on grade level in Reading and discovering that she has surpassed my expectations.
103. CD’s that allow me to re-listen to inspiring and enlightening messages from church.
104.   . . .

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Schnavel Kapp: A Photo Memory

Where there is relationship there is love. Where there is love there is joy. Where there is joy there is delight. My dad took delight in me as a child and I adored him.
He was coming home from work one day, walking up the sidewalks. I close my eyes and smile as I reminisce. There are two snapshots my heart remembers from that day. Both are bathed in pure unadulterated delight.
In the first photo-memory I am running towards the door to greet him, paused momentarily by inspiration. An Old Order Mennonite girl does not wear a baseball cap, un schnovel kapp, but my brother’s was hanging on that hook by the door. It was at the perfect height for my two year old frame to reach for as I went scurrying by. I remember being poised mid air. That momentary second in which life changing decisions are made. Do I grab it and smash it onto my braided head or do I not? It would be so silly. It would give my daddy cause for a chuckle, a tease. Cause to take delight in me.
I must have decided “yes”, because in the next memory-frame I am suspended in mid air, leaping, bounding, weightless. Sheer joy. Flying into my daddy’s arms..
I have no memory of what happened next. Just this skipping in mid air, legs outstretched, heart exploding with joy feeling as my dad walked up the sidewalk. Home.
My dad only lived another two or three years after that memory. I have longed for those loving, accepting arms reaching out for me. Holding me. Not letting me fall.
It has taken years, decades, amidst a rubble of broken, flailing arms, for me to find them once again. The security of those Eternal Arms of Love. The ones that never die, never abandon. Those arms that have been poised, waiting with sheer delight for me to come leaping, bounding, flying. Home.

“Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.”
Mark 10:16, The Message

Monday, January 23, 2012

1000 Gifts: My Lists # 57-81

57. A cup of hot licorice tea.
58. Black bean soup with raw onion and cilantro.
59. Phone hugs when my husband is out of town.
60. A clean sink when I get up in the morning.
61. Observing a mother and six/seven year old daughter converse meaningfully while waiting at the Toyota service department.
62. Fluffy lake-effect snowflakes.
63. Driving along a wooded road and feeling captivated by the bare trees showcasing their snow laden boughs.
64. Feeling the steadiness of excellent tire tread as my hands grip the steering wheel while driving through a snowstorm.
65. Feeling the Spirit of God in a corporate way as we walk into church.
66. Finding pictures in the plaster designs on the ceiling.
67. Remembering when I used to find pictures in the designs of the white and gold swirled paneling in my childhood home.
68. Three pink roses in three white vases (left over from a colorful rose bouquet given by my husband).

69. Feeling the steady thump-thump of my husband’s heart as my head rests against his chest.
70. Sipping decadent hot chocolate made with a Godiva milk chocolate bar, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns and topped with whipped cream.
71.  Hearing my husband repeat, “Mmmm, this is the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.” as he takes slow sips of both whip cream and hot chocolate.
72. The ability to write.
73. Browsing in a bookstore.
74. During my walk times: Praying and praising God while encircling the spot in the park where our wedding vows were said over ten years ago.

75. Scripting snowy footprints that read: “Jesus, Yes!” at the site of our wedding vows.

76. A flock of geese leaving footprints in the snow.

77. A piece of Godiva milk chocolate bar melting in my mouth.
78. Browsing in the public library.
79. Finding the perfect book to read.
80. One more box of snow blower replacement pins left at the store.
81.  My husband ensuring that the snow blower works before he leaves for the week.
82.  . . .

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Palm Sunday Tornado: A Photo Memory

A Cab Buggy from an Emma Schrock Painting
 “Did I go with you?” I asked.
One of my early photo-memories is as a young toddler standing in the front section of our black cab-buggy holding onto the metal hand railing under the windshield. The memory is so vivid because of the sensation pulsing through my being. A sensation like a state of shock or fear, although not for myself. We had just passed Mart Ramer’s lane and were almost at the corner where we would turn onto county road nine and into our driveway. My mom was sitting behind me on my right and my dad on the left.
I have often wondered what could have caused an emotion so powerful that I would still remember the exact moment and the place where I was standing decades later. Also, as an adult I realized that Mom’s position on my right placed her in the driver’s seat and I questioned the accuracy of the memory, because a woman wouldn’t typically drive the horse when her husband is along? I wondered if that was perhaps the moment my Dad had told my mom he had cancer? For years I suspected that was the scenario that had most likely occurred. Recently I stumbled upon the truth.
I had asked my mom about the Palm Sunday Tornado. She told how we were at Emma-Grossdaudy’s and she and Grossmommy had driven up to Wakarusa to visit my great aunts, Nora and Martha.”
“No, Dad wasn’t feeling well. He was tired because of the cancer and you and Eugene stayed with him at Grossdaudy’s house.”
“I remember it was eighty degrees which was unusual for April 11,” she continued. “I tied our horse, Nick, to a telephone pole behind Nora and Martha’s house. They had some more company that afternoon and Grossmommy and I went inside and visited with everyone. While we were visiting a storm blew in and we were all peering out the windows at the dark clouds rolling overhead.”
Once the storm blew over and the sky cleared Mom said she ventured outside. She noticed the hazy, pale, yellow sky the storm had left behind as she walked over to where Dick Metzler, Nora and Martha’s neighbor from across the street, was picking twigs out of his yard.
 “It was a tornado,” Dick informed her. Wyatt is flat and a trailer park in Elkhart has been wiped out.”
Wyatt is a small town located ten miles southwest of Wakarusa and Elkhart is ten miles northeast. In shock Mom returned to Nora and Martha’s house.
The Old Order Mennonite Church does not allow many of the world’s technological conveniences. Therefore they did not have a radio or a television to hear the news and weather reports. The rest of the family was, as yet, oblivious about their narrow escape from the tornado.
Mom continued her story, “After returning to Nora and Martha’s house I told Grossmommy I was ready to go home. I untied Nick and on the way home I must have been subconsciously sticking my head out the buggy door to look behind us. I didn’t realize I was doing it until Grossmommy asked if everything was all right.”
Unable to voice her fears, Mom mumbled, “Everything’s fine.”
Shortly after Mom and Grossmommy returned, our family headed for home.
“We were almost at home,” Mom said. “When turned to your dad and blurted out, “There was a tornado and Wyatt is flat. Your dad looked at me in disbelief.”
“Why didn’t you say something earlier?” he asked.
 “I didn’t think about it,” Mom responded.
“Mom, were you driving?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t remember,” was her quick response, than she paused for a moment. “I probably was.” After another moment of reflection she reiterated, “I think I was driving, because I frequently did during those times. The cancer had already started to weaken your dad and I would drive so he could conserve his energy.”
I stared at my mom in disbelief. “I remember that moment! I was standing in the front end of the buggy, holding onto the railing when you told Dad that Wyatt was flat.”
That strange sensation was caused by the anxiety I sensed in their voices. I was only twenty months old in that Palm Sunday Tornado memory-photo. The entire memory was real; it was only cropped too closely within my memory and Mom’s story added the outlaying sections of the picture.
An overwhelming sensation of wowness! pulsed through my veins. Another memory confirmed. Another portion of my life, of my dad’s life substantiated. 


1965 Palm Sunday Tornado, twin funnels sighted in Elkhart
Photo taken by Paul Huffman Source: NOAA Photo Library

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Every Morning

Lamentations 3:21-23
 21This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Last year I lost thirty-five pounds. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. It was me coming to the end of myself and being willing to allow God to reconstruct my life. I’ve made resolutions before and kept them (for awhile) and then broken them. But this time it was more. I was tired of not being all that God had created me to be and I was ready to allow Him to re-create the girl he had fashioned me to be while still in my mother’s womb.
Everyone in my family has either the short-solid frame of my grandmother or the tall string bean build of my grandfather. I inherited the former. Even though I did not grow up being fat, I grew up feeling fat. My brothers teasingly referred to me as such, especially when I went through a chubby stage in the fifth grade.
I have several pictures of myself as a teenager. One of them is a side view revealing myself to be a five foot four and a quarter inch slender gal. Another is a front view of me appearing to be on the wide-side as I stand in between my two best friends, one of whom is shorter and more petite and the other who, although she is about the same width, is stretched out six inches taller. Every time I looked at that photo my brothers words echoed in my head and even though I knew I was not fat; I felt fat.
During my teens and twenties I occasionally gained five or ten pounds and then lost them just as quickly without ever doing anything about it. The weight came and went while my girlfriends and I merely complained about it.
Then my thirties arrived and along with it a thyroid that was not functioning at its maximum performance. I gained weight. Then more weight. It was frustrating because I was not eating excessively, just enjoying the same amount of snacks and junk food that I had for most of my life. Depression joined forces with the weight. I loved teaching and buried myself in my profession. I loved God and lived for Him, but the imbalances in many areas my life eventually brought me to a place where I realized that I no longer felt like me.
I attempted diets and remakes that worked temporarily, but it was not until I came to the understanding that it was not about remaking myself into the person I used to be, but about discovering who Christ wanted me to be today and allowing him to perfect himself within me, that the authentic changes began.
One of those changes was to lose weight. While losing weight was hard, it was the easy part. Now I’m learning to live out that new weight every day. Walking. Lifting weights. Drinking eighty plus ounces of water daily. Getting adequate sleep. Enjoying good food in the moderation that my body currently allows. Living it all with the Joy of the Lord.
The Word of God in Revelations 12:11 says: “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony…” Every day I strive to overcome temptation through the power of Christ within me and through speaking His Word as a testimony or a confession of what he has done and is continuing to do in my life.
So I begin my day with God in His Word and I sense His power being magnified within. And then throughout the day I testify by speaking what His Word says He has done and is doing in me. The following verses are printed out on a paper that I carry with me to read throughout the day. (The verses included change according to my needs at the time.)

PURPOSE: To Maintain a Healthy Body.
Psalms 103 5: 5
5[God] satisfieth my mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

FAITH That God’s Word Works.
Mark 11: 22-24
22And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

SELF DISCIPLINE To Accomplish My Goals.
Galatians 5: 22-26
 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law. 24And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Proverbs 25: 8
28He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

II Timothy 1: 7
 7For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound [disciplined] mind.

Nehemiah 8: 10b
 10[T]he joy of the LORD is your strength.

Philippians 4: 13
 13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

The ATTITUDE With Which I Live
Psalms 103 5: 1-5
 1Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; 4Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; 5Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

          This does not mean that I have been perfected. It means I live victoriously. Victorious living is getting up one more time then I fall down. Victorious living is becoming more like Him every day. Victorious living is speaking God’s Word instead of the problem or as my pastor so eloquently phrased it:
Faith does not deny the reality of the difficulty.
It declares the power of God in the face of the problem.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Please Help!

Last Year I resolved to write more consistently and this Blog is the result of that resolution. The challenge is that I'm a new blogger with no one to help me understand this awesome social media biz... I would be happy to share the community graphics for 1000 Gifts on my blog, but I don't know how to do it. Could someone please give me the necessary info? Thank you so much in advance.

The Purpose of God's Gifts

Art is observing the world around you and then recreating it in a form that allows others to not only appreciate your experience, but to subsequently encounter their own world in a deeper, more beautiful and satisfying manner.

I pray you will be blessed as you read the story of my life; that it will inspire you to pursue the unfeigned heart of God and that your mind and spirit will become infused with his joy.

1000 Gifts: My List #39-56

39. Safe driving on icy roads.
40. Emma’s paintings on my walls.
41.  Willow Tree Happiness statuette: Gazing at the arms outstretched in freedom and joy.
42. Reading books authored, illustrated and published by my students.
43. My husband wanting to buy something because it has a heart on it.
44. Smiling at the wooden heart-shaped light switch cover every time I turn the stairway light on.
45. Reading Emma’s diaries.
46. Hearing the old-timey ring on my cell phone and knowing it’s my mom.
47. Sitting on a stool beside my mom at the Meijers’ photo lab and looking at her most recent artistic nature photos.
48. The daily crunch, crunching of our dog’s teeth against the three foot hide-bone she had been gifted for Christmas.
49. Fresh baked cornbread drizzled with raw honey.
50. Surveying a snow-cleaned driveway after maneuvering the snow blower for two hours.
51.  Gloves that keep me warm in cold, cold weather.
52. A glass of milk fresh from my cousin’s dairy farm.
53. Homemade chocolate chip cookies.
54. Blue skies and sunshine on a twenty degree day.
55. An inspiring message at church.
56. The Word of God coming alive inside of me as I read it.
57.  . . .

Friday, January 13, 2012

A God of Love: A Photo Memory

I was on the phone with my mom, listening to her reminisce. “At church you always sat with me on the women’s side and Eugene (my older brother by two years) sat with Dad on the men’s side. Then one Sunday your dad said, ‘I’d like to have Aleta sit with me today.’ But then I won’t have anyone with me,” I told him. And his response was, ‘Someday you’ll have them all the time.’” (He was referring to the ravages Hodgkin’s disease had left on his body.)
Mom’s thoughts continued, “I think he just wanted that experience of having you, his little girl, sit with him. He might also have wanted to ensure that you remember him.”
 A hazy memory-photo flashed through my mind and I interrupted her thoughts. “Did we go to Yellow Creek Church that Sunday?”

She paused for a second, “Yeah, church was at Yellow Creek that Sunday,”
I smiled to myself. Another memory confirmed. Although I don’t remember sitting with my dad, I do have this obscure photo-memory of being surrounded by a sea of men sitting on gray church pews. Those are the pews at Yellow Creek Church: gray painted, box-like benches that only come up to the middle of an adult’s back. Blossers, the only other Old Order Mennonite church building in Indiana at that time, has more comfortable pews that are stained dark brown. They curve up past the mid-back into a thick swirl at the top.
Old Order Mennonite communities build churches as their population increases and then they alternate services between the church buildings. That way everyone gets the opportunity to attend a church closer to their house on alternating Sundays. It’s a welcome break when you clip-clop to church in a horse and buggy. Once a community expands even more they hold services at each church house every Sunday. It’s their version of having one large building with an eight o’clock and a ten fifteen service.
The fact that this hazy photo filled with gray church pews had been confirmed helped, in my mind, to give authenticity to the others still waiting for confirmation.
My mom continued with her reminiscing, “Dad said that as everyone knelt to pray he was surprised when you also knelt down beside him, leaned your arms on the bench, folded your hands and bowed your head like the grown-ups. He hadn’t thought about teaching Eugene that.”
I can picture my mom in church leaning down and whispering: Her large hands enveloping my small ones. “Fold your hands like this.” Gently folding my fingers, she places them on the bench in front of me. “Then close your eyes and bow your head so you can pray.” I imagine myself peeking up at how she was doing it and following suit. It’s how she lives her life: demonstrating godliness through the little everyday occasions.
I grew up envisioning God as love. The love of my mother teaching me how to live. The love of my dad’s cherishing embrace. The connection between our view of God and our parents is a powerful subconscious force within our minds and lives. I thank God for placing these memory-photos inside of my heart as a little child.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1000 Gifts: My List #1-38

1.     The book 1000 Gifts.
2.    The Blog:
3.    A woman willing to risk writing about her hopes and fears.
4.    Living in His Grace.
5.    Being filled with His Spirit.
6.    Being transformed by His Love.
7.    God's peace replacing fear.
8.    Choosing  joy.
9.    Awesome health.
10.  Strong arms that are able to lift.
11.   Strong legs able to walk and run.
12.  Eyes that see beauty.
13.  Listening to my Deutsche Weihnachten CD.
14.  The taste of Diwali made by a student's mother.
15.  A brown tree with a squirrel in its hollow drawn and cut out by a student.
16.  Ezekiel 4:9 English Muffins.
17.  Drinking Ginger Lemon tea while it’s at the perfect degree of hotness.
18.  Phone calls from my husband.
19.  My Inspiron mini computer.
20. The Power that Created the Universe lives within me!
21.  Ten years with Daniel, my husband.
22. Hugs with arms wrapped around tightly.
23. Blue Skies and Sunshine.
24. Tomato soup.
25. Smoked Gouda cheese.
26. Lebanon Bologna.
27. LED light bulbs (low bills even if the lights are left on).
28. Blogging.
29. My homemade just-right-sized fleece blanket.
30. The comforting tick-tock of our Seth Thomas wall clock.
31.  Memories.
32. My husband holding a baby at church and leaning over to say, “I want one.”
33. An intense, prolonged embrace from a student who had briefly moved out of state and has just returned to my classroom.
34. Lentil Soup.
35. Peppercorn Medley Grinder.
36. The words: Ich liebe dich! Expressed by my husband.
37. The beautifully groomed sight of our Bouvier des Flandres after the “On the Go Dog Groomers” trailer has just pulled out of the driveway.
38. Getting our Success Magazine package in the mail.
39.  . . .