A Tribute to My Amish-Preacher Grandpa

Grussdaudy

My Grussdaudy ~ Isaac L. Dienner

“Isaac L. Dienner my beloved Grussdaudy (Grandaddy) finished his pilgrimage on earth Friday evening, February 5, 2010. An Old Order Amish minister for 57 years, he left an enduring legacy of faith for his 14 children, 48 grandchildren &  (at the time of his death) 76 great-grandchildren.” ~ Quote from my brother, Jet Dienner

Grussdaudy’s Entrance Into Eternal Joy

Grussdaudy,

You knelt humbly beside your bed, receiving daily strength from your Heavenly Father.

Now you kneel before God’s throne, and see with heavenly eyes His glorious riches, and behold face to face how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. You are engulfed and surrounded with all the surpassing love and fullness of God.
Eph 3:14-19

You bowed your head in daily worship of God, with Grussmummy by your side.

Now you worship with the heavenly multitude on the sea of glass, clear as crystal, before God’s throne, which is surrounded with the emerald rainbow. You hear with your ears the four living creatures who day and night never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” You see the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever.
Rev 4:6-11

You were chosen here on earth, by the Spirit of the Lord upon you, to “preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Now you stand in victory on the mountain where the Lord Almighty has destroyed the shroud that enfolds earth, where death has been swallowed up forever, and God has wiped away the tears from all faces.
Isaiah 61:1
Isaiah 25:6-8

You persevered, and endured hardships here, holding firm to your faith till the end.

Now you will reap the harvest of righteousness. You stand in heaven, saved by grace, and gaze upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame. You see him sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God!
Hebrews 12:1-3
Matthew 24:13

You were the patriarch of a large family here, and led and witnessed many weddings.

Now you celebrate with saints, at the wedding supper of the lamb. You take your place at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Revelations 19:9

You worked skillfully here as a carpenter, crafting beautiful things from wood.

Now you live in the place prepared for you by the Master Carpenter.
Mark 6:3
John 14:1-4

You lived a life of simplicity and modesty, poor in the eyes of the world.

Now you inherit the riches, the beauty, the grandeur and the splendor of God’s kingdom, which can never perish, spoil or fade. You shine like a star with the brightness of heaven, and walk on streets of gold.
Matthew 6:19
James 2:5
1 Peter 1:3-5
Daniel 12:3

You harnessed horses and drove your buggy here on earthly roads.

Now you will witness a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True…His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns…The armies of heaven follow him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Rev 19:11-16

You led a peaceful life, earnestly seeking that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Now the earthly veil is removed, and you reign with Jesus forever. You taste and see the goodness and glory of the Son of God, The Prince of Peace.
Matthew 6:10
Psalm 34:8
Romans 12:18
Isaiah 9:6

You read your worn German Bible, by the dim light of an oil lamp.

Now you see the face of your beautiful Savior Jesus, THE Word. You see his face, and his name will be on your forehead. You will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give you light.
Psalm 17:15
John 1:1
Revelation 22: 4-5

Thank you God for my Grandfather’s faithful witness of the Gospel, and for the way pictures of his life on earth are shadows of the glory to be revealed in the age to come. Thank you that your Word is true, and it will endure forever! 

A grateful granddaughter, Justina (written February, 2010)

This is post number 24 of a 31 post series called Lessons From My Amish Family. Click here to read more!

 

 

Patience and Perseverance {A lesson from my Grandpa}

Grandpa Esh

Grandpa Jonas Esh

“The strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours.” – John Piper

When he was thirty-six years old my Grandpa Jonas Esh was a husband, father to six children and Amish farmer and businessman. Life took a dramatic turn one day when he and a crew of workmen were painting the barns on Grandpa’s farm.

Grandpa's Farm

One of the barns on Grandpa’s Farm in Morgantown, PA.

Grandpa was on top of a tall ladder with a spray painter in hand. One of the men on the crew moved the paint truck, not realizing the paint hose was attached to the ladder Grandpa was on.

The ladder fell several stories and so did my Grandpa. His life changed forever. He suffered a broken spine, permanent nerve damage and became partially paralyzed in his legs. In addition, he lost use of his kidneys, forcing the need for dialysis treatments three times per week for the rest of his life.

Jonas Esh Family - early years

Grandpa and his family before the accident

I don’t know what life looked like for those first years after the accident. I can imagine it must have been incredibly difficult. I do know that Grandpa & Grandma were surrounded by a strong community, and that my uncles grew up quickly as they suddenly had to shoulder the responsibilities of the farm.

Grandpa & Grandma Esh & Family in the 70's

Grandpa & Grandma Esh & Family in the 70’s

I knew the older version of Grandpa. A man who was told he would never walk again, but proved everyone wrong. He had a limp but it failed to stop him. He didn’t use a cane, and even refused to use handicapped tags for his car, saying there were other people who needed the space more than he did. My Grandpa was unstoppable! People with less strength of character would have given up on life, but not Grandpa. Instead, he carried on – displaying incredible perseverance and tenacity.

Grandpa on the roof

Grandpa working on the roof

In spite of all his difficulties, Grandpa never displayed frustration or discontentment to us grandchildren. He was patient, kind, and a whole lot of fun to be with!

Fishing with Grandpa

Fishing with Grandpa

Grandpa and the wagon

Hauling pumpkins with Grandpa

Relaxing with Grandpa

Relaxing with Grandpa

Helping Grandpa

Helping Grandpa

Birthday Party with Grandpa

Birthday Party!

Grandpa Jonas combing my brother Jonas' hair

Grandpa Jonas combing my brother Jonas’s hair

I’m sure there are many things that helped cultivate perseverance and patience in his life, and Grandma was an incredible source of strength to him over the years. But I believe his deep trust in his Savior and his eternal perspective are what sustained Grandpa through all the difficulties he faced on a daily basis. Grandpa loved hymns, and one of his favorites was “Going Down the Valley”:

“We are going down the valley one by one,
When the labors of the weary day are done;
One by one, the cares of earth forever past,
We shall stand upon the river brink at last.” ~ Jessie Pounds

Grandpa & Grandma playing a game together

Grandpa & Grandma playing a game ~ I love this picture because it shows them working through something together, just as we always saw them do in life.

I sure do miss you Grandpa. I never got to see you run here on earth – those legs of yours wouldn’t allow you to do it. But I look forward to the day I see you in heaven, whole and complete, maybe even running by that river you loved to sing about. And thank you for teaching me what it means to persevere and be patient – no matter what obstacles and hardships come my way. I’m forever grateful to God for your example.

~ Justina Dee

 This is post number 19 of a 31 day series I’m blogging about my Amish family. Thanks so much for reading! Click here to read more.

 

 

 

 

The Impact of One Teacher

One Room School House Teacher Mrs. Buchanan

One Room School House Teacher Mrs. Buchanan

Meet Mrs. Buchanan. She was my grandmother’s school teacher during the 1930’s & ’40’s, in a tiny one-room school-house on Best Road in Morgantown, PA.

The one-room schoolhouse on Best Road, where Mrs. Buchanan taught my grandmother

The one-room schoolhouse on Best Road, where Mrs. Buchanan taught my grandmother

If you’ve followed the series of blog posts I’m sharing about my Amish family, you’ve seen much mention of my amazing grandmother Lydia Esh. I’ve never met another person who influenced my life in such a powerful way when it comes to bringing joy and teamwork to everyday life. Who were the people who helped shape my grandmother’s character and gifts? Of course there were her parents, Emanuel and Fannie Stoltzfus, (known to me as “Daudy & Mummy Stoltzfus”). But there was also someone else: her teacher Mrs. Buchanan. She was a woman of great influence during my Grandma’s childhood, and Grandma often spoke of her.

Students of Mrs. Buchanan's - My grandmother is in the back row

Students of Mrs. Buchanan’s – My grandmother is in the back row

Grandma, her sister Sarah, her brother Sam & siblings were the only Old-Order Amish children who attended Mrs. Buchanan’s classroom during those years. Most of the other students were from Conestoga Mennonite Church.

My grandma Lydia and her brother, who I call "Uncle Sam"

My grandma Lydia and her brother, who I call “Uncle Sam” (At the school on Best Road)

Amish children attend a one room schoolhouse from 1st through 8th grade. I would argue that because of her incredible teacher, my grandma received more education in her 8 years of schooling than most people procure in 12 years of a typical school experience.

DSC01525

Mrs. Buchanan instilled in my grandmother a love of learning and adventure. She sparked in her a deep appreciation of poetry, history, literature and song, and taught her the value of teamwork. My grandmother gave these priceless gift to my mother. My mother joyfully passed them on to me, and now I have the delight of sharing these same gifts with my daughter.

Grandma Lydia's Schoolwork

Grandma Lydia’s Schoolwork

Grandma Lydia's Schoolwork

There’s a fun little bunny trail of this story: Grandma’s middle initial was “S” for Stoltzfus. (Many Amish children had the maiden name of their mother as their middle name.) Apparently Grandma wanted a different middle name, so she signed some of her elementary school work with “Lydia Susie Stoltzfus”.

DSC01527-1

The most significant memory my mother has of Mrs. Buchanan’s effect on my Grandma’s day-to-day parenting is the memory of Grandma reciting poems she learned in school (like the Owl & the Pussycat) while combing and braiding her hair when she was a little Amish girl.

My mother's first grade school picture

My mother’s first grade school picture

Amazingly, Mrs. Buchanan served as substitute teacher for my mother when she attended “California School”, another one-room schoolhouse which still stands on California road in Morgantown, PA. My mother especially loved the story-books Mrs. Buchanan read to her students.

Students at California School, the one room schoolhouse on California Road in Morgantown, PA

Students at California School, the one room schoolhouse on California Road in Morgantown, PA

From time to time (especially when we read and recite poetry together) I think of the stories my grandma and mother shared of Mrs. Buchanan. I don’t want the story to die, and so I share it with my daughter. More importantly, I strive to cultivate a deep love and passion for learning in her – a gift now passed down to a fourth generation of students thanks to one incredible teacher many years ago. I believe Mrs. Buchanan’s influence makes me a better mother and home school teacher today.

My mother and my daughter

My beautiful mother and daughter

What a powerful picture of the impact one teacher can have on future generations! The lesson to me is this: If a one-room school-house teacher in a tiny town in Lancaster County, PA can make such an imprint, then certainly we all have the power to sow seeds of values and joy into the children in our lives – which will grow, spread like vines, and blossom on the pages of future history.

~ Justina Dee

This is number 18 in my “31 Lessons I Learned From My Amish Family” blogging series. Click here to read more! 

 

 

 

 

The Choice to Forgive {Lessons from My Amish Family}

Dirk Willems (died 16 May 1569) (also spelled Durk Willems) was a Dutch martyred Anabaptist who is most famous for escaping from prison, turning around to rescue his pursuer—who had fallen through thin ice while chasing Willems—to then be recaptured, tortured and killed for his faith. | Wiki

Dirk Willems (died 16 May 1569) (also spelled Durk Willems) was a Dutch martyred Anabaptist who is most famous for escaping from prison, turning around to rescue his pursuer—who had fallen through thin ice while chasing Willems—to then be recaptured, tortured and killed for his faith. | Wiki

As I live in a western society that breathes, practices and preaches personal rights and justice, sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom modeling a life of forgiveness in the way Jesus commands:

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25 – (ESV)
But there’s a countercultural model in America, and it was best demonstrated after the horrific Nickel Mines shootings in a once innocent little one-room schoolhouse, where gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot ten girls (aged 6–13), killing five of them. In the days, weeks, months and now years that followed, Amish families who were the very victims of the tragic shootings of those sweet little school girls not only spoke words of forgiveness, but demonstrated it, by loving the shooter’s mother, widow and children – and (gasp!) even attending his funeral as an extension of grace to his family only days after burying their own daughters.
Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Imagine growing up in a home, and among peers in your church, school and community where forgiveness is practiced and taught, instead of personal rights. Extending grace is the choice made instead of seeking revenge. Meekness is sought after and more highly esteemed than force. When this is the culture of a people, choosing to forgive naturally becomes their reaction in a time such as the Nickel Mines shootings, as it is a collective reflex of their trained character and nature.

“I would say the difference here with the Amish is that this is part of their cultural DNA. They aren’t individualistic like other Americans are, so the burden doesn’t fall so much on the individual to forgive, although individuals obviously are part of the process. But this is more built into the cultural rhythms and the cultural DNA of the Amish community. It’s just the way we live and the way we’re expected to respond in the face of hostility.” ~ Donald Kraybill

I saw this kind of forgiveness demonstrated in my Grandpa Esh’s life. (You can read his story by clicking here.) Instead of being angry and bitter as a result of tragedy – seeking revenge, compensation and justice for being robbed of the ability to walk and function as a normal man, he chose to forgive and move on with life.

I also experienced it in the thousand little ways my family handled things. I’ve watched typical (and great!) American parents who distract their child who is hurt by running into something such as a chair say something like, “what a horrible, bad, awful chair that is for hurting you!”. You would never hear an Amish parent say anything of the kind. Instead, they would simply make sure their child is okay, and quietly move on, placing no blame on the chair or anything else for that matter.

The manner in which the Amish people extend grace in the face of evil seems so unnatural, and could be viewed as forgiving too easily, or even a sign of inner weakness. Typically we want justice in the face of personal tragedy, and revenge when we’re treated unfairly. In the above referenced article Donald Kraybill goes on to explain, “…for the Amish, who bring their own religious resources to bear on injustice, the preferred way to live on with meaning and hope is to offer forgiveness—and offer it quickly. That offer, including the willingness to forego vengeance, does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong. It does, however, constitute a first step toward a future that is more hopeful, and potentially less violent, than it would otherwise be.”

In my Amish family and among the Anabaptist culture, there is a longstanding heritage of choosing to forgive. It was first modeled by Jesus as he forgave the very people who crucified Him. I grew up hearing the accounts from Martyr’s Mirror – where believers who were being tortured in horrific manners, and burned at stake for their faith, chose to forgive those men who were inflicting the unspeakable atrocities upon them.

Children walking to their new schoolhouse called "New Hope School" | image via Seattle Times

Children walking to their rebuilt schoolhouse called “New Hope School”  Image via Seattle Times

“In a world where faith often justifies and magnifies revenge, and in a nation where some Christians use scripture to fuel retaliation, the Amish response was indeed a surprise. Regardless of the details of the Nickel Mines story, one message rings clear: religion was not used to justify rage and revenge but to inspire goodness, forgiveness, and grace. And that is the big lesson for the rest of us regardless of our faith or nationality.” – Donald Kraybill

Obviously we may not all agree with the Amish and Mennonite theology on pacifism and their views on culture. But their beautiful practice of forgiveness is an undeniable beacon and shining example of grace to all of us. I consider myself incredibly blessed to learn from them, and to call them my family.

~ Justina Dee

This is a post from a series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Click here to read more.

Reference: Christianity Today’s “Amish Grace & the Rest of Us” The Amish response to the Nickel Mines shootings wasn’t just plain Christianity. Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher/ SEPTEMBER 17, 2007

Links:

Nickel Mines Legacy – Forgive First | Pittsburgh Post Gazette 

The Culture of Forgiveness 

Joy In the Simple Things {31 Days of Lessons From My Amish Family}

Amish Garden Wash Line | LydiaGlick.com #31ThingsILearnedFromMyAmishFamily

Amish Garden Wash Line – Photo by Julia Lea Waldron

I call her Grussmommy. She was my paternal Grandmother – the gentlest soul I’ve ever known. The preeminent lesson she instilled in me was to take joy in the simple things of life.

The normal Western world in which I live has precious few women who would be content to live without the things like electricity, telephones and television which we call essentials. I can’t even imagine the typical American woman carefully making and caring for every piece of clothing they own, rarely going shopping or visiting a restaurant for dinner. And to do without the “finer” things in life – such as jewelry, cars, a night out to see a movie, a trip to Starbucks, a glass of wine or a well-deserved, relaxing vacation? Most of us would consider such simplicity a massive sacrifice on our part.

Amish Wagon by Julia Lea Waldron

Amish Wagon – Photo by Julia Lea Waldron

But for my Grandmother, not even one of these things was considered essential. She didn’t need the latest appliances, magazine, shoes, smart phone or destination trip to bring to bring fulfillment or pleasure into her life. Instead, she found immense joy in modest matters.

Amish Garden

Amish Garden – Photo by Julia Lea Waldron

She loved songbirds, and knew them all by name. Her face beamed with quiet happiness as she pointed out something as tiny as a sparrow, or identified the call of an owl. She cared tenderly for these little creatures in God’s creation. I remember one day when she cleaned the hair from her brush, carefully placed it outside near the bushes, and explained to me how the birds would come take it to use as material for their nests.

Amish Grandparents Walking, by Julia Lea Waldron

Amish Grandparents Walking – Photo by Julia Lea Waldron

My grandfather was a cabinetmaker, and his woodworking shop was next to the house. I remember the contented smile on Grussmommy’s face as she made fresh squeezed lemonade and peanut butter crackers (just the way Grussdaudy liked them), and we carried them down the little walkway to the shop for my hardworking grandfather’s mid-morning snack. Once when we visited their home, she baked brownies from a new recipe. She was so excited to share the goodness with her family you would have thought she was making the most delectable of desserts for the Queen of England herself.

She delighted in the beauty of God’s creation, especially flowers. She planted them on the borders of her vegetable garden every spring, where their abundant, fragrant and vivid blooms brought color and joy to all who passed by. Her favorite room of the house was the sun porch, which housed her collection of violets, succulents and a myriad of other plants. I remember sharing her wonder when the Christmas cactus bloomed in December, and she pointed out the delicate blossoms to her family as they gathered around.

The Simple Things | LydiaGlick.com

The Simple Things – Photo by Julia Lea Waldron

Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House books) once said “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” I believe my grandmother was well aware of this truth, and demonstrated it not only on a daily basis, but in every moment of her life. And I’m deeply grateful for her beautiful example of joy in the simplest of pleasures.

~ Justina Dee

This post is the second of 31 posts in a series about the Amish people. You can find the others by clicking here: 31 Days of Amish.

Special thanks to street photographer Julia Lea Waldron for the beautiful images from Amish Country, in Lancaster County, PA.