The Story of an Old Order Mennonite Girl

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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Isaiah 50:4

Isaiah 50:4

Morning by mornig he awakens me and opens my understanding to his will.
(I have this on a small poster on my refrigerator,
but I don’t know which translation it is.)

The Sovereign LorD has given me a well-instructed tongue
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

1000 Gifts # 339-390 Dying to Live

Every year Notre Dame University offers the Teachers as Scholars program and for the last several years I’ve picked up their brochure in the teacher’s lounge at my school thinking that it looked interesting. But I never did take advantage of it, until this year. The seminar on Teaching Ethics to Kids sounded interesting- an ever challenging phenomenon in a public inner-city school. I signed up for it. The form required that I list a second and third choice of seminars in case the first one was already filled. Reluctantly I made two more choices. There really was only the one class I was interesting in.
When my acceptance letter came in the school mail, my shoulders drooped. They had signed me up for my second choice: Dying to Live: Theological Perspectives on Migration and Globalization. The date of the seminar had also been changed and it conflicted with a writing seminar I was registered to attend with the school.
“I think I’ll drop it,” I commented to another teacher. “I really wanted to attend the writing seminar anyway.” But after more discussion and some time to contemplate, I decided that I would attend the Teachers as Scholars program. It would be a good experience. I could learn something new. I always enjoyed learning new things.
Not that the concept of migration was new. Half of the students at my school have migrated from Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries. I had had the most awesome ELL (English Language Learners) class last year. All my students were from Mexican or Port-a-Rican descent. We had so much fun learning together. It would be interesting learning about experiences similar to those their families might have encountered.
But a seminar on migration coming from a theological perspective? I pictured enduring a day cowering under an opinionated professor with liberal thinking insisting that we all agree that the US should open wide her borders and allow everyone to pass back and forth with no restrictions. While I agree that the US migration laws need a desperate overhaul, this idea that we should just entirely do away with borders would cause our economy to collapse and leave us with nothing left to offer anyone, not even ourselves.
Then my mind returned to the word Theological Perspectives in the seminar title. Yeah, right! I thought. Like a Doctor of Theology from Berkley who had been a visiting research fellow at Oxford would still believe in the basic theology of the Bible. But again, I reminded myself that a new perspective, whether or not I agreed with it, would expand my worldview. I began to read the booklet that had arrived with my packet of information from Notre Dame. I forced myself to wade through all the statistics. Some of them opened my eyes to some new thoughts. That was good.
I arrived early and settled into my seat at the table, nibbling on the breakfast snacks provided, skimming over the last few chapters in the book, smiling hi as a few more participants settled into seats around me. Dr. Dan Groody seemed like an amiable man. He appeared relaxed in his khaki slacks and polo shirt. He was introduced as Father Dan Groody and soon had us all feeling at ease along with him.
We spent the morning listening to and discussing facts of migration. After a lunch across campus we returned to a video he had produced about migrant workers from Mexico risking their lives, many dying in their attempts to cross hazardous mountain and desert terrain, all in a desperate attempt to make enough money to stop the cries of hunger from their children back home. Risking death so their children might have a chance at life. Dying to Live: Theological Perspectives on Migration and Globalization. A fitting title.
Then Dr. Groody began to speak again. “We are all migrants,” he said. “According to Christian theology we are all migrants, aliens, foreigners in a strange country, seeking a better home. And God himself, in the form of Jesus, migrated to this earth and died so that we could live.”
I sat there listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ being preached through the voice of migration. This message that causes my heart to hunger, my eyes to glisten and my spirit to soar reverberated from the walls of that college classroom. I sat mesmerized, unable to take my eyes from his. My heart wanted to laugh, to stand and shout, but my body remained immobile. When he finished there was a hallowed silence. And when he asked for comments, I was speechless.
Thank you, God! My heart cried. I may have wanted the Ethics for Children seminar, but you, the one who migrated from Heaven to Earth, sent me here to hear your story in a new light.

My 1000 Gifts:
339. Attending the Teachers as Scholars program at Notre Dame University.
340. Discovering that my second choice was God’s awesome first choice.
341. Seeing the human side of illegal migrants from Mexico to the US.
342. Hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed through the voice of migration.
343. Feeling my husband’s heart connect with mine as I tell him about the thrill of hearing the gospel in the message of migration.
344. Discovering the girl sitting next to me was from Germany.
345. Discovering that having enough protein in my diet helps renew the energy I had been lacking.
346. Delicious lima beans.
347. Crabapple branches loaded with red and pink extending like tentacles into the sky.
348. Afternoon naps.
349. Easter service.
350. Resurrection cookies.
351. The children leading us in a march for Jesus around the block.
352. Whole families coming for prayer.
353. People coming to Christ in repentance.
354. A young woman standing strong for Christ in a hard situation.
355. The buoyancy of the heart as the Spirit of God indwells and surrounds.
356. Dinner with friends.
357. Meeting new friends.
358. Discovering a new favorite Mexican Restaurant.
359. An extra day of vacation.
360. A good job that I enjoy to return to.
361. A weekend in Chicago.
362. Discovering a supermarket in a glass covered high rise building.
363. Once more experiencing the culture shock that the big city brings inside this little country girl.
364. The introspection that comes with being out of my element.
365. Staring up, up, up, up, up towards the tops of skyscrapers towering over us.
366.The same blue sky and sunshine that cheers me here in Elkhart appearing between the tall buildings in Chicago.
367. Seeing Marilyn Monroe in Chicago.
368. The river-taxi ride.
369. Walking Navy Pier with friends.
370. Meeting a young man who is passionate for God.
371. Realizing that if my husband and I would have had children, this young man would be the right age to be our son and thinking of how cool it would be to have a son passionate for Jesus like he is.
372. Hearing the words of encouragement a friend gave to my husband.
373. Seeing God come through for us one more time.
374. Learning that I can trust God.
375. Reading an awesome translation of Acts 17:28. In him we live and move and have our being. A German translation says that in him sind wir, in him we are. He is the I Am and in him we are.
376. The stone chimney and porch on one of the houses I walk by on my joy walk.
377. Students doing well on tests.
378. Students reading on level “I” and beyond.
379. A faithful God.
380. Finding a natural cure instead of needing to take medication.
381. Remembering to put my earrings in. (I feel naked without them.)
382. Our new Vitamix blender!
383. Fruit smoothies filled with veggies.
384. Ice cream filled with veggies.
385. Having all four food groups in one delicious drink.
386. Being able to add the flaxseeds without pre-grinding them.
387. Watching a four year old boy go out of his way to jump over a pothole in the parking lot and then stop to wave at me in my car- waiting for him and his mother to pass.
388. Being able to call my mechanical mother when my husband is out of town and the lawnmower won’t start.
389. A new lawnmower that works.
390. Mowing the yard.
391.   . . .

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday: Mathew 6: 25, 26 – 33, 34

Mathew 6: 25, 26 – 33, 34

25Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Photo Memories: Two Random Snapshots

I remember standing in the shop, located three steps from our house, watching my dad and a customer discuss an engine that sat on the large wooden table. The table wasn’t very tall, because I could see across it. It is a very simple memory of me just standing there in my dress, watching.
My next memory is in the house, newspapers had replaced the little tin dishes on my wooden play table. The snapshot is of Dad sitting on a chair with his back to the oil stove in the dining room and in front of him a chainsaw sat on top of my newspaper covered table. Mom was standing there waiting for his advice.
Strangely these two pictures are void of emotion. I am merely an observer.
Memory pockets are fascinating. I understand that things of greatest import or shock implant themselves most securely in our memory. But what was the import of that moment in the shop with dad and a customer when I must have done that same thing hundreds of times. Mom said she frequently brought things into the house for his advice when he was not able to go outside anymore. Why did those two particular moments leave such a vivid impression? Or are these last two memories actually composites of all the times I had seen those particular actions take place? A collage of photos superimposed into one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Photo Memories: The Lego Nap

We are three quarters of the way down the stairs, our Legos balanced carefully in our hands. I am in the lead with my older brother by two years a few steps behind. We had supposedly been napping but our Lego creations tell otherwise.
Dad is waiting at the bottom. His expression attempting to chastise us for not having taken that nap, but the amusement shining from his eyes softens the reprimand.
It’s the memory of the delight with which I showed off my Lego design along with that twinkle shining through my dad’s disapproving expression that has stayed with me all these years. It’s as if he understood and complimented us on our creativity, while frowning ever so slightly about the missed nap.
Several years ago I mentioned this incident to my older brother, Eugene, and was surprised to discover that he had also remembered it. But his memory had recorded the incident otherwise. According to Eugene, Dad was not happy at all and we got a severe scolding for not having taken our naps.
How could two people have opposite memories about the exact same incident? Were the photos taken from different angles? Did he get scolded more because he was the big brother or did he just cling to the negative portion of the response?
When I told my mom about the incident, she said, “Eugene was a typical little boy who loved following his dad around in the shop and he would try to use Dad’s tools. Your Dad was often tired from the cancer and did not always have the patience with Eugene that he might have had otherwise. He and Eugene’s personalities sometimes clashed.”
I felt saddened. Because of Eugene’s conflict with Dad and his tools, he experienced a sterner side of Dad and that is the portion of the Lego memory he has carried with him all these years. I, on the other hand, was a little girl with no interest in my father’s tools. He had no cause for impatience with me. Therefore, my photo was taken from an angle that revealed my dad’s face and I caught the twinkle of understanding that came along with the reprimand. The angle of Eugene’s photo, conversely, must have concealed the smile that accompanied the words and negatively affected his memory of the incident.
Memories of feeling loved and understood have colored my life’s story through the years, even into adulthood. It has shaped who I am. It has given me a confidence that might otherwise have been missing. The confidence that I am lovable. That the God who created me did so with love.

Monday, April 9, 2012

1000 Gifts #313-338 The Bookstore Atlas

We were walking by a bookstore in the mall and as usual my husband quickly moves to my side and attempts to nonchalantly use his body to shield me from seeing the books. He knows my passion for books and playfully pretends to be a buffer for the temptation. But his love of learning equals mine and once inside he becomes as engrossed as I do.
This bookstore happens to be a used bookstore and after browsing through the front half, we discover that the back shelves are priced at fill a bag for $2.50. My husband finds a book he wants so that means we can get an entire bagful more for free. Our eyes begin skimming along shelves and pausing to flip through a book here and there. It’s easy to see why many of these books are priced cheaply. It takes perusing past a lot of uninteresting volumes to chance upon the jewels stashed in between. But we find some and add them to our stash. We even pick up a few that look somewhat interesting but we wouldn’t have bothered to spend money on otherwise.
The bag is almost full when he comes across the atlas. It could almost fill a bag by itself. We take it to a table and open it. Memories flood the space between us as we point to places where we have been. The glory of traveling is that maps are no longer flat papers with lines and dots: The memories they evoke are three dimensional tributes to our lives.
Time looses meaning as we revisit our adventures. An hour or more later we walk out of the bookstore with our $2.50 bag of books and our hearts filled with the luxury and wonder of incredible memories. An afternoon well spent.
My List:
313. Wonderful memories.
314.Spending the afternoon with my husband browsing a used bookstore in the mall.
315. Sitting at a table in the bookstore perusing through an old atlas and reminiscing about all the places we have traveled to.
316. Sneaking across the mall hallway to buy a surprise mini-birthday cake for my husband while he and his sister are getting Subway sandwiches for lunch.
317. Seeing my sister-in-law happy with her new boyfriend and…
318. …watching his face light up as he speaks about cars, crash derbies and racing.
319. Trying on dresses for fun (in the mall) while my husband is playing a video game in the store next door.
320. My husband wanting me to buy two of the dresses.
321. The expression on the faces of the clerk and the lady behind us in line when prior to paying, my husband turns to me and asks, “Are you sure this is everything you want?”
322. Wearing spring clothes again.
323. My husband looking handsome in his new suit.
324. The clearing of my sinuses while I drink hot lemon tea with added cayenne pepper.
325. Spring break.
326. Sleeping with a fan blowing cool air from the window into our bedroom.
327. Sleeping in late.
328. Watching the house become cleaner room by room as I spring clean.
329. Cobwebs hanging onto the duster.
330. Organized cupboards.
331. Pausing to breath in the scent of a lavender lilac bush in bloom.

332. Cutting tulips to place in vases around the house.
333. The death and resurrection of Jesus… all for me… and you!
334. Being forgiven.
335. Choosing to renew my mind.
336. The peace of God in my heart and mind.
337. The stripes he took for my healing.
338. A husband who is in love with Jesus.
339.  . . .

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday: Mark 16:9 Early the First Day of the Week

Mark 16:9

9Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

Monday, April 2, 2012

1000 Gifts #292-312 Teamwork

           On a typical Sunday morning I get up first and take my bath (while my husband sleeps in a few extra minutes) so that I can then do my hair while he takes his bath. Ideally this will cause us both to be ready at about the same time. But because of this schedule, I also typically get left with feeding the dog and taking her outside. And since I’m downstairs in the kitchen anyway, I grab a quick bite and pour a glass of milk for my husband. We’re in a hurry, but we need just enough of something so we don’t sit in church distracted by empty, growling stomachs. Sometimes I have complainingly asked my husband why I’m left with all the work every Sunday morning.
          This particular Sunday my husband’s alarm went off earlier than usual. Rueben from church had asked if he would run the sound system this morning he explained as he headed for the tub. I got to sleep in an entire thirty minutes. Sweet! While I got ready my husband took care of the dog. “Are you almost ready?” he called upstairs forty minutes later. I looked at the time. We needed to leave in six minutes. Normally I have all my clothes laid out for the day, but this morning was an exception.
          “The sweater I want to wear is lying on top of the dryer. I don’t think it’s entirely dry yet. Could you toss it in the dryer for a few minutes?” He obligingly did. As I pulled on the sweater five minutes later I hollered downstairs again. “Would you please pour me a glass of milk and put in a spoonful of molasses?” At exactly fifteen minutes after. The exact time we needed to leave I flew downstairs. He finished stirring the molasses into my milk before handing it to me. As I quickly drank the delicious mixture, I apologetically thanked him for all the last minute tasks I had asked him to do.
          His matter of fact response was, “We’re a team. It’s what we do for each other.”
          At that moment I fell in love with him all over again.

My List:
292. My husband saying: We’re a team. This is what we do for each other.
293. A roomful of twenty-five children harmoniously, messily painting beautiful pictures.
294. My husband wanting to use honey and molasses in place of sugar to sweeten the pumpkin custard.
295. The oops I’m sorry but it is funny grin on a four year olds face as she looks back at me after her birthday balloon accidentally knocked me in the head while she was running past me in her attempt to keep up with her mother who was rushing towards the grocery checkout register.
296. The words I love you Mrs. Ellsworth from the lips of a student who had tested my patience the day before and then again on the way out to the bus.
297. The proud look on the face of a student when I brag to a second grade teacher that he is almost ready for second grade.
298. A day at school without students to get caught up on report cards and room organizing.
299. Pajama day at school.
300. A student who allows me to push him hard academically.
301. That same student handed me a sticker with the words, “This is from my little brother. He asked if I had a nice teacher and I said yes, so he told me to give this to you.”
302.  Time to write.
303. A student saying, “Mrs. Ellsworth, I have three moms: you, Mrs. Robbins and my stepmom.
304. A sale on the exact items I was going to buy anyway.
305. Hearing the exact words I needed to hear on a favorite radio program. 
306. I student coming up to me and saying, “I read what you wrote on my report card. Thank you!”
307. Safe travels.

308. Watching the world become greener with each joy walk this spring.

309. The sidewalks strewn with flower petals like a bridal pathway and I walk through it into the presence of God.
310. Children’s chalk art decorating the sidewalk on my joy walk path.
311. Feeling the pull of my calf muscles as my body angles sharply forward to make it up a steep incline.
312. Hearing about a friends travels to foreign cities we have visited.
313.   . . .

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday: Luke 19: 37-40 The Stones

When I saw these stones, at the Byron Glacier in Alaska,
bursting with the floral glory of God, I thought of the following verses.

Luke 19:37-40

40And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

37And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
38Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
39And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
40And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.