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.

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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”.

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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 Habit of Prayer {31 Lessons From My Amish Family}

 

The Lord's Prayer in Deutsch Photo Credit, Kathryn Dienner

The Lord’s Prayer in Deutsch
Photo Credit, Kathryn Dienner

“Prayer is a moment of incarnation – God with us. God involved in the details of my life.” ~ Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life

My sister and I were sharing memories of our grandparent’s prayer habits today. After we conversed I was utterly overwhelmed by this priceless fact: As grandchildren, our most precious and vivid memories of our dear grandparents are the habits of prayer they humbly and beautifully displayed to us day in and day out. God was at the center of every part of their lives.

They prayed in the morning. They prayed before and after meals. They prayed during evening devotions, and again before bed. They prayed when times were good, and they also prayed through the most difficult seasons imaginable. Prayer was such an integral part of their daily routine I cannot even imagine trying to describe their lives without it.

When meal time came at Grussdaudy & Grussmommy’s house, we joined around the table and reverently bowed our heads in silent prayer, giving thanks to God for His provision. Grussdaudy sat in a beautiful old wooden chair on rollers placed at the head of the long handcrafted table, with sweet Grussmommy seated to his right.  Us grandchildren were lined up on wooden benches along each side. The Old Order Amish pray silently before and after their meals. We knew the prayer was over and we could lift our heads by the squeak that came from Grussdaudy’s chair as he leaned back.

As my maternal grandparents were New Order Amish, they spoke the mealtime blessing aloud. My sister recalls Grandpa’s dear & familiar prayer.

“Grandpa’s mealtime prayer, as I remember, always started out with, “Our kind, righteous, eternal heavenly Father…, we come before you this… (morning, noon, evening…) hour. We thank you for your many blessings…We thank you for Jesus…We thank you for the cross. We thank you for this here food that is set before us. We…ask that you would bless it and bless… the hands that…have prepared it. In Jesus’ name we pray,  Amen.”

The memory of my grandfathers leading their families in prayer throughout the day is so strong and dear to us that it literally brought my sister and I to tears while reminiscing.

I remember walking by Grussdaudy & Grussmommy’s open bedroom door at bedtime, and seeing the sillouette of them side by side, kneeling in prayer at their bed. What a powerful picture of humility and reverence it burned onto my heart. My sister shared; “I also vividly remember Grandma and Grandpa praying together on their knees that all of their children and grandchildren would follow the Lord”.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
Psalm 16:6 (NASB)

Thank you Lord for praying grandparents. Their legacy of faith is the greatest treasure any grandchild could ever ask for. You have blessed me indeed!

My grandparents taught me what it looks like to live a life with the habit of powerful, continual, grateful, humble and beautiful prayer. May we all display such constant light and truth, and leave an impression of Jesus on the memory of those who walk through life beside us.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number eleven of a series I’m sharing called “31 Lessons From My Amish Family”. Click here to read more. 

Links: 

Müde Bin Ich, Geh’ Zur Ruh
Translation by Margaret Loewen Reimer

Müde bin ich, geh’ zur Ruh, (Weary now, I go to rest,)
Schliesse meine Augen zu. (Close my eyes in slumber blest.)
Vater, lass die Augen dein (Father, may Thy watchful eye)
Über meinem Bette sein. (Guard the bed on which I lie.) Amen

My mother taught this German prayer to us as children, and I’ve done the same with my daughters. Saying the prayer is one of our favorite bedtime traditions. Click here to read a beautiful piece on the history of this traditional German children’s prayer. Three additional verses can be found as you scroll down to page six of the document. Here’s a video link to the prayer: 

Click here to hear The Lord’s Prayer in High German, as my Amish Grandfather prayed in closing of the family’s evening devotions. 

Rhinestone Jesus {Saying #YESinmyMESS}

#rhinestonejesus #yesinmymess

Throughout my life I’ve had the humbling and challenging experience of meeting some pretty incredible people.

Ordinary people who were born with no more privileges, connections, talents, resources or money than me. But there is something that set them apart from the masses.

Each of them decided to say YES when opportunity to serve others come knocking.  And because of their “YES”, the world has been impacted with Gospel, and the love of Jesus.

Today my remarkable friend Kristen Welch (writer at We Are THAT Family & founder of Mercy House Kenya) has released “Rhinestone Jesus – Saying YES to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough“. This is her vulnerable, authentic and real story about the process of saying YES to God while living a messy life  just like the rest of us. I can’t wait for you to read it, and be challenged, inspired and encouraged to partner with God to do the things He has called you to do – right where you are. Every single “YES” matters.

Click here to watch “Rhinestone Jesus” book trailer

Click here to buy “Rhinestone Jesus” today! A portion of proceeds benefit Mercy House Kenya.

This book will make a PERFECT mother’s day gift!

I’m also giving away my personal copy of “Rhinestone Jesus”. If you would like to enter to win, simply leave a comment below.

Learning to say #YESinmyMESS right along with you my friend!

~ Justina Dee

 

Sweetmama {In Honor of International Women’s Day}

 

Sweetmama #lydiaglick

She walks into a room and her very presence brings a calm, beautiful serenity that gently settles over everyone like a cool, soft, sheet on a summer night.

Sacrificial love pours from her life like water from never-ending vessel, selflessly, quietly & gracefully serving all she encounters.

A loving and timely word spoken from her understanding heart – which has felt and endured much pain, encourages weary souls along their tiresome journey. When people are with her they find themselves aspiring to greater and nobler dreams than ever before. 

Hospitable and gracious is she. Dignitaries, and people of importance love her excellent company and worthy conversation. But of much greater concern to her, are those who are never seen by the crowds hurrying and bustling along life’s Busy Boulevard. The ones who desperately need love in order to simply survive are not only noticed but sought out by her. And she extends her hand, draws them close and carries them to the safe, warm light and comforts of home, giving freely of all she has.

The future is clear to her. No, she may not know exactly what will happen each day, but no matter what comes her way she is certain of her destination and she rests in supreme confidence on the Love of her Savior, leaning on her Beloved every single step of life’s way.

There is a bold and creative beauty in her eyes, one that takes risks and seizes moments others have not the courage to grasp. She sees potential and opportunity where most see nothing but bleak darkness. She’s a visionary and forerunner who blazes trails others will later follow.

To be with her is to learn from her. From the simplest of tasks to the most formidable, she carefully teaches and shares purposeful meaning in all sorts of matters.

Each day is filled with opportunity,  and she is master of the moments, never squandering a single minute. Instead she rises early and orders her day and the events and tasks – as well as opportunity for quiet, peaceful moments it holds – in such a manner that when she finally lays her head on the pillow at night she knows she has done all she could do to make the world a better place for those she so desperately and tenderly loves.

Impossible, you say, for a woman to be all those things? I say it is not only possible, but  it has been done. One of my childhood and lifetime heroes (who is advancing not only in years, but also in radiant beauty, and is lovingly called “Sweetmama” by her family) is all these things and countless more.

Although most have never met her, and they certainly don’t know her name, to me “Sweetmama” epitemizes the essence of beautiful womanhood. Years may have stolen some things from her, but her beauty shines on and grows only stronger with time. I honor her, my mother, my grandmothers, my sisters, daughters, aunts, friends and all the other brave and TRULY beautiful women in this world on this “International Woman’s Day”. 

May God bless you and cause His face to shine upon you,

~ Justina Dee

Some favorite, fitting quotes:

“Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:28-30  (ESV)

“Beauty… when you look into a woman’s eyes and see what is in her heart.” – Nate Dircks

“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen.  But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul’s own doing.”  ~Marie Stopes

“Elegance is timeless” ― Habeeb Akande

“For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.” ― Sam Levenson

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows & the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” ― Audrey Hepburn

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” ― Kahlil Gibran

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

 

Justice Issues – The Single Most Important Thing Families Can Do

The most important thing a family can do to end injustice is pray together

This broken world is full of ugliness and injustice everywhere we look. Human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child slavery, religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and abortion, among countless other issues. If we’re not aware of the facts, we’ve simply chosen to comfortably close our eyes.

There are many ways families can become involved with solving and ending these atrocities. But where do we start? What can we possibly do in our own little corner of the world…with babies and toddlers and students and work and school and LIFE?

I believe the single most important thing a family can do to end injustice is PRAY TOGETHER. Informed intercession is a powerful thing. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:11-13, NASB

Children are incredibly important in the Kingdom of God. The prayers of our little ones are a powerful thing. 

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2 NIV

A praying, believing, unified family is a powerful thing.

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:19 ESV

Several things happen when we intercede on behalf of the people who so desperately need justice, and can be found in every area of our planet.

First, God answers our prayers. He really does! Our prayers are effective! He is for the downtrodden, for those in bondage and slavery. He cares deeply about the widows, the orphans and those who are being mistreated. He loves to answer our prayers on their behalf!

Next, as our families pray for these people, our hearts begins to come in line with the Father’s heart on these issues. And as we are given His understanding and insight, we begin to know what it looks like for us to take action as a family. Together, our family can ask God, “what do you want US to do about these horrible things?” And when we have chosen to become informed to these issues of injustice around us, God will make it abundantly clear to us what it looks like for OUR FAMILY to get involved and be part of the solution. However small the action may seem, it is not insignificant. Rather, it is of vast importance in carrying out God’s purposes and sharing His love and redemption.

So, how does a family pray for “justice issues”?

Here are three ways to get started:

1. Decide together as a family to become informed and to pray on a regular basis for these things. We need not go into the dark details of what is happening with our young children, but simply explain that there are people who are being treated unfairly, and they need us to pray for them. Little ones have a great sense of justice, and understand far more than we give them credit for. Children love to pray for people! Show them a map of the world and point to the places and areas you are praying for together.

2. Our prayers must be saturated with the Word of God and guided by the Holy Spirit. Look up verses about God’s power, justice and might together. Find out what He says about orphans, the downtrodden, and those who are unfairly treated. Look together in the Bible for descriptions of God’s character; His faithfulness and everlasting, never-ending lovingkindness, and the way He loves to rescue people. Then pray from that understanding. It’s that simple! Our prayers do not need to sound fancy or “religious”. All that matters is our fervent heart, coming from a place of understanding what God has done for US, and how He has saved US. We also love to play praise and worship music in the background while we pray, and join along and sing at any time.

3. Find other families who have the same passion for human trafficking and justice issues, then set time aside to join in your home and pray together!  

In closing, this is my prayer for your family:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:9-12 ESV

May you be blessed as you live & breathe, and see & move & pray through the lens of His love for us and for the world.

~ Justina Dee

Link : Human Trafficking Prayer Guides 

The Deep Well of a Mother’s Love {A glimpse into the life of an adoptive family}

Mother and her family

 

“No language can express the power, and beauty, and heroism, and majesty of a mother’s love.  It shrinks not where man cowers, and grows stronger where man faints, and over wastes of worldly fortunes sends the radiance of its quenchless fidelity like a star.” ~Edwin Hubbell Chapin

(Is there someone from your childhood whom you haven’t seen for a very long time, but your heart still glows with love every time you think of them? My daughter, niece and I visited one of those people this weekend, and her life experiences over these past years is too beautiful and inspiring to keep to myself. On Friday afternoon we took a little road-trip under the hot Texas sun, through a few beautiful little towns, down a country road, up a long gravel lane, and finally arrived at our destination. We parked by the fenced pasture and were greeted by the family dogs.)

As we made our way to the house, the front door opened, and out walked one of the most beautiful families I’ve ever seen. First came my childhood friend (now a mother), followed by twelve of her and her husband’s thirteen children.

We embraced, then my eyes brimmed with tears at what followed. My friend’s intense love for each child was evident on her face (and even in her mannerisms and gestures) as she introduced me to every one of her blessings. Eight biological and five adoptive children (from Cambodia, Guatemala and Ukraine.) With each introduction of her precious ones, I was given another glimpse of their mother’s deep, deep love for them.

We sat down around the table in the farm-style kitchen and enjoyed a scrumptious family style meal, followed by a three-layered cake lovingly and beautifully baked by two of the girls. Sharing time with this family was an extraordinary experience. I sat across from a long bench of beautiful little ones, who sat in front of a large window through which you could see the great outdoors. The respect and courtesy these children demonstrated to us their guests, as well as to each other was a complete delight to behold (and experience).

Dinner was full of reminisce, stories and laughter. Love emanated from my friend and in turn, from each of her children. As the matter of fact, there is no denying the fact that this home is built on the strong and firm foundation of God’s love, as every square inch is filled with its grace and beauty. The picture of these children together, in their little corner of the world is such a picture of redemption that I have no words to describe it. What can one woman do to change the world? I need look no further than my friend’s kitchen table in Texas. The respect, admiration and adoration these children have for their mother is precious to behold. After all, she is a picture of Jesus to them.

Playground

After supper, everyone helped clean the kitchen, and we headed outside where twilight was just setting in. The children played, (all the older ones helping the littles), while us mommies caught up on the years that have passed by. It’s hard to believe there were fourteen children (including the two I contributed to the group) playing around us, they were so well-mannered. Such kindness and joy flowed from every member of this family! My daughter and niece had an amazing time playing, meeting the children’s animals, and then riding horseback.

Family Playground 2

As dusk set in, we took all took a walk together. It was magical. My friend shared the stories of each of her children. All I could think of is how DEEP this mother’s love is! It is like a well. Because her love is an extension of GOD’s love, it never runs dry.

Country WalkWalking along their country lane, we shared the joys and heartaches, the mountaintops and the valleys of our mothering experiences. I heard how one of her daughters was found at the orphanage doorstep, wrapped in rags. She told me about the unlikely path (full of intense sadness and ultimate joy) which led to the homecoming of two sisters from Ukraine. We talked about babies being born after their due-date. We shared struggles, current battles and the reality of living a life that looks different from those expectations we had as young women what seems so long ago.

My beautiful friend

I didn’t want this evening to end. We finished our visit with some time around the piano. (Which my friend’s children can play, as well as the violin!) As we sang “Amazing Grace” together, and the children’s clear, sweet voices rose up around me at the piano bench, I was completely overcome with emotion. These little ones understood these words far better than most of us could ever begin to do.

“Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come;

‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me HOME” ~ John Newton

Amazing Grace

Incredibly inspired. Massively challenged. And undeniably encouraged am I, by this dear woman’s deep well of Love. May we all die to self. Live to love others, and make an eternal difference in our world in such a way as this.

~ Justina Dee 

The Frontlines of Motherdom

Portrait by E. Dubufe

Portrait by E. Dubufe

 

The mother stood immovable at the door of her family’s home built on a great Rock, and she boldly faced the world outside. A storm was raging in the night all around her. She held a lantern high in one hand and wielded a sword in the other. The light and warmth from her lamp shined a clear, unapologetic beacon outward, and she peered valiantly into the obscure and cold darkness. An exquisite scarlet curtain hung over the door, marking her humble home with royal Grace and Beauty. The little house on the hill shone brightly behind her, and her family slept safe and warm in their peaceful beds.

As she surveyed the dangerous scene around their home, she saw ferocious enemies taking cover in the darkness. This mother knew there was a battle raging around her, for the very hearts, souls, minds and strength of her precious children. Some mothers who could not see the enemy scoffed at her for the extreme actions she took to protect her little lambs, but nothing could dissuade her from the important mission she was carrying out. She was keenly aware of the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers that lurched in the shadows. But this mother had no fear, because she was armed for battle, and knew not only how to stand her ground, but how to send the enemy away in defeat.

There were days the adversary was evident. He brazenly stalked the children like a lion. His dark shadow caused terror to fall upon those around him because of the sheer evil emanating from it.  Other times he was much less visible, as he crept in through open doors and unguarded gates & passages.  Sometimes he would even disguise himself, and appear as an angel of light, walking into the midst of her undiscerning neighbors and destroying everything around him.

But this mother was qualified, equipped and prepared for the battle at hand. The experiences in her life had readied her for this time of motherhood. She remembered the combat from her past. There was the time when an evil dragon sat looming as large as a tree outside her home. She prayed and spoke the Words of the Eternal One into the atmosphere, until he soared away, never to return. Once when she was walking along an obscure path, a cougar who was stalking her jumped from above. She drew her sword, and it fled in defeat. She remembered her dream warning of evil men with intention to annihilate a friend. She joined with others who warred, and together they prayed till the danger of murderous evil had passed. She thought about the times she saw glimpses of messengers and warriors of Light, who were sent by the King to guard her, and battle the evil forces. They resolutely guarded the paths all around their house, went up and down the stairs and walked the rooms throughout their home, guarding the family while they slept at night.

After she became a mother, she grew in discernment and wisdom. There was a time when she learned that the enemy was scheming to take her children away into the darkness. She gathered her darlings and hid them in the safe place she had prepared ahead of time, until the danger passed.

She knew her children had a great purpose and many things to accomplish during their time on earth, and so she fearlessly and earnestly guarded each of them. She knew they would be brave rulers and fearless prophets. She recognized they would serve the world with love, and they would bear mercy to the nations. She understood they would be world-changing exhorters, beloved teachers, and generous givers. She was utterly mindful of the significance of each child’s life, and the influence they would have on history itself.

She believed the Creator himself knit each of her children together in the womb, and she was determined to equip her children to carry out their lifework. From the time she nursed and carried her infants, she taught them to love the precepts and beauty of Noble things, and through the actions of her life, she modeled to them what trust in the Eternal One looked like. When her babies woke with screams in the darkness of the night and wee hours of the morning, she held them close to her heart. She rose above her weariness, and soothed them with songs and quiet words for hours on end – and she cherished every moment with them.

At times other adults who were fighting battles with her wanted to send the children away, as they thought they were too young to understand kingdom matters, but this brave mother wouldn’t hear of it. Even while the menacing enemy lurked and growled nearby, she roused her children around her and led them to sing songs of victory, with shouts of joy, laughter and delight. The ordained praise from their lips silenced the avenger, and he and his minions cowered away in defeat.

She was intent on guarding and nurturing the important calling of each child’s life. She said she would rather be drowned at the bottom of the ocean than to harm the hearts and purposes of her children in any way.

Sometimes there were battles that raged on for days around their little home on the hill. Thousands of people fell on all sides, but her family’s dwelling was covered by an Almighty Hand, and there was nothing in heaven or on earth that could harm them. There were times when the mother guided her children through dark valleys filled with fearful shadows, and the journey was long and hard. There were seasons when she was too weary to take another step. It was then, that she felt strong and gentle Arms lifting her, then carrying her and her little ones away from all danger, to a safe haven of rest.

This mother trusted her children to the Great Protector and knew that one day they would have to leave the refuge of their home, and go out into the world without her, to carry out the mission for which they were created.  So she tirelessly taught them how to use their armor, about the companions they should choose, and how to fight and defeat the enemy. She told them that as they left their home and the people they loved, to do the business of the Kingdom, they would be blessed one-hudredfold.

She had no want of confidence as her children grew and went on their way, for their Creator himself had placed love like crowns on their heads and wisdom like bracelets on their wrists. There was a seal on their arms; stronger than death itself. This mother had blessed her children with the gift of faith. They knew that they would be strangers and foreigners in this land, but in the distance they could see the promise of a heavenly country. She knew her children understood that even though the battle was very real, their world was only a shadow, and they were pressing onward to a better city which was being prepared for them – where there was no more darkness, heartache or pain. Never again would there be danger from the evil enemy, because of the great and eternal love of the Victorious One who came to rescue all who believed in Him.

In closing; there are mothers who have one child, and mothers who are blessed with many sons and daughters. There are mothers who rescue orphans and bring them into their arms, adopting them as their own blood. Sometimes caring for these precious ones for brief weeks, and other times they are able adopt them into their homes forever. But no matter how short or long the time, these mothers never stop fighting and praying for the little ones they love. There are precious mothers who bear the sorrow of losing children they loved and protected in their womb, whose feet never walked on the earth beside them. The spirits of their beloved babies went straight to the Beautiful Place, where the battle over death is forever won. Then there are those beautiful women who never carried babies in their own womb, or in their own home, but are nevertheless mothers, nurturers, teachers, and defenders of children in their village and everywhere they walk. Their magnetic love draws children close to their protecting spirits wherever they go, and the lives many children are forever impacted by their love and prayers. There are other mothers whose children were now grown, who come alongside younger women, giving wisdom and encouragement. Together all of these radiant and brave women blaze trails, go to battle, and raise generations of faithful men and women who carry eternal Light and Hope to countless multitudes.

Dedicated with love to Jocelyn; one of the bravest mothers I know.

~ Justina Dee

 

Scriptures referenced in this story:

Ephesians 6:11-13

2 Timothy 1:5

1 Peter 5:8 

Moses’ Mother

The story of Jehoshabeath

Hezekiah’s Mother

Psalm 139:12-14

Samual’s mother Hannah, Mary the mother of Jesus & Elizabeth the mother of John– who understood the plans God had for their babies

Psalm 22:8-10

Isaiah 49:1

1 Thessalonians 2:7

Psalm 8:2

Matthew 19:14

Luke 17:2

Psalm 91

Isaiah 40:11

Psalm 131:1-3

Isaiah 66:13

Proverbs 1:8

Proverbs 31:1

Song of Solomon 3:10-11

Song of Solomon 8:2

Judges 4-5 (Deborah & Jael)

2 Chronicles 29:1-3

Psalm 113:7

Psalm 27:9-11

Isaiah 66:13

Matthew 10:37

Matthew 19:29

Hebrews 11

 

A Journey of Beautiful Survival {a tribute to my mama}

Grandmama and my daughter, her namesake.

My mother and daughter, before Mama was diagnosed with cancer. (At my parent’s lovely home, overlooking the PA farmland).

I’ll always remember the day I got the phone call that my beautiful mama was unconscious, and headed to the hospital. How could it be?! She was the picture of health, and a pillar in her family. The reality of her lying helpless in a hospital bed was an unthinkable truth. One minute she was going about business as usual; full of life. And in an instant, her world as she knew it, came to a screeching halt.

In the hospital - Mama looking beautiful as ever, right before her surgery. (You'd never guess she's wearing a hospital gown!).

In the hospital – Mama looking beautiful as ever, right before her surgery. (You’d never guess she’s wearing a hospital gown!).

This weekend marks the two year anniversary of my mother’s admittance to the hospital where after many weeks, many tests, and a brain biopsy later, doctors discovered she had an inoperable, cancerous, brain tumor on the left frontal lobe. We treasured every moment at the hospital with our sweet Mama.

Mama (after her biopsy), with her two youngest sons

Mama (after her biopsy), with her two youngest sons

Mama with the boys

Mama with the boys

Holding one of her precious granddaughters, during the hospital stay.

Holding one of her precious granddaughters, during the hospital stay.

Daddy and Mama with some of the beautiful flowers family and friends sent to the hospital.

Daddy and Mama with some of the beautiful flowers family and friends sent to the hospital.

Over the past two years mother has battled cancer in the most resplendent manner. Her strength of character through an incredibly formidable season of life is truly inspiring. She has been offered every opportunity to lay down and give up; to surrender to the darkness. But she has done quite the opposite. She continues to live, love, dream and hope.

Leaving the hospital!

Leaving the hospital!

My daughter & Grandmama visiting the ACS for a wig fitting, after Mama’s surgery and radiation took her hair.

You see, the building of my mother’s character began long before January, 2011. Because of her deep rooted faith, her identity is not in her diagnosis, but in the story her heavenly Father has planned for her life – which (in all the years I’ve been alive and witnessed it) has been a journey of seeking, knowing, serving and loving her Maker.

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Mama, as a first grader

Mama was born into an Amish family, and raised on a picturesque farm in Lancaster County, PA. She lived a delightful childhood and never lacked for anything. But despite her life’s quaint and captivating appearance, it was marred with difficulty and suffering. I can see that the hardships she endured (and how she witnessed my grandparents walking through their painful experiences with in deep faith), prepared her for life ahead.

The Farmhouse where my mother grew up with her family

The farmhouse where my mother grew up with her family

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Daddy and Mama as a young married couple

My parents were married in 1974. Their marriage is a portrait of true, sacrificial love and devotion. In 1981, they moved to Texas with 4 small children, and started a family homestead which they built from the ground up. We spent 13 years there, and I witnessed my parents nuture relationships and community with people from all walks of life, as they lovingly and carefully raised and homeschooled us children.

Family Pic

Family Photo in the mid ’80’s

Growing up with my mother was an experience for which I’m eternally grateful. She is the true renaissance woman. As a child I believed she could do nearly ANYTHING, and do it well. As an adult, my opinion hasn’t changed! She has a God-given ability to see and draw out the beauty in everything she touches, and anyone she knows. From our little home built by my Daddy on the landscape of Texas pastureland long ago, to banquets for the worlds VIP’s (after her children were grown), her touches of artistry and outstanding gift of hospitality never fail to leave the world a better place.

Tea Party at Grandmama's house.

Tea Party at Grandmama’s house.

Mama is a lover of Jesus, her husband and family, and anyone around her, and a worshiper of God, in every facet of her life. She is a reader, a dreamer, a goal-setter. She is an artist, a designer and a florist. She is a gardener, a keeper of the lost arts and a farmer. She is a songbird, a lover of poetry, and a history-buff. She is homemaker extraordinaire and a business woman. She is a health connoisseur. She is a leader, a teacher, a model wife, and a most excellent mother. She is a woman who passionately LIVES what she believes, and doesn’t just talk about it.

One of the things I am most grateful for, is my mother’s pioneering spirit in the arena of homeschooling. My parents chose to educate us at home before they even knew such a concept existed. What a gift they gave us!

One of my favorite photos of Mama, with her foster son Terry.

One of my favorite photos of Mama, with her foster son Terry.

My mother and father have walked through the past two years with strength and fortitude that can only come through faith, and I know their story has many more wondrous chapters that remain to be played out. This quote perfectly sums up the way they live each day:

“Teach me to treat all that comes to me with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.”~ Elisabeth Elliot

Survivor Photo Shoot, by Dajay Art Photography

Survivor Photo Shoot, by Dajay Art Photography

In addition to the steadfastness and love displayed by my parents, one of the most treasured things to witness has been the outpouring of love from people all around our family, from all across the country, and all walks of life. Cancer brings with it a complete disruption of normal routines, and our lovely family and friends have been beside my parents, their children and grandchildren every single step of the way.

A family luncheon at cousin Rachel's house

A family luncheon at cousin Rachel’s house

Delicious meals, car rides, open hearts and homes, cards, letters, notes, flowers, gifts, words of experience and encouragement, plane tickets, childcare and most importantly, prayers. Words cannot begin to express our family’s deep gratitude.

Mama and Daddy several years ago, with their six children and 10 of their now sixteen grandchildren.

Mama and Daddy several years ago, with their six children and 10 of their (now sixteen) grandchildren.

In closing; Mama, I call you blessed! You are the kind of mother that books are written about. You are my friend, my teacher and my hero. The fruits of the Spirit are evident in every arena of your life. I want to be like you when I grow up! May God continue to guide you and carry you in every moment of your beautiful journey. May you “…be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

Forever grateful to God for my mother, ~ Justina Dee

“Survivor Photo” by DaJay Art Photography

Scripture Reference: Psalm 1:2-4, KJV

 

These Ladies Are Stirring Things Up!

With Maurine & Kristen, of Mercy House Kenya

With Maurine & Kristen, of Mercy House Kenya

Every once in a while, you encounter someone who causes you to no longer be comfortable with the current state of your affairs. These people share stories and experiences that pry open your heart to the truth that God uses regular, ordinary, common, everyday people, who refuse to close their eyes to the hurt, pain and darkness in our world – to change the world.

These people stir things up. Their lives and actions say that normal is not OK. Apathy is not OK.  They’ve erased complacency from their lives, and instead say, “how can I do more”. They are dreamers and leaders, who partner with God, and in turn, demand action from those around them.

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.” ~ John Kotter

Yesterday our church family had the privilege and honor of sharing a luncheon with Maurine Owino, (Executive Director of Mercy House Kenya), and our friends, the Welch Family (Co-founders of Mercy House, with We Are That Family Blog). They shared with us the story of Mercy House. (Mercy House cares for women and children who were destitute, living on the streets and in the slums of Kenya. You can read all about it at the links I’ve shared below).

When my husband, daughter and I left the luncheon, we were very uncomfortable. In the best sort of way. You see, Maurine and the Welch Family did something the Bible says we should do. Not only are they caring for beautiful women and children in Nairobi, Kenya, but through their loving actions, they are inspiring others and shifting things, here in suburban America. They’re stirring up mercy, compassion, love and action. They’re doing exactly what the Bible tells believers to do!

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” Hebrews 10:24, ESV

Our little family has some ideas we’ve been talking about doing. We’ve even begun to take steps towards making them happen. But after yesterday, we have no more excuses. Kristen Welch shared something that reminded me of this quote:

“When a poor person dies of hunger it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.” ~ Mother Teresa

I’m excited to keep you posted on the progress of our family’s journey. Now I ask, what are the things YOU can do for the people who desperately need our help? Opportunities to help them (and support those who are “in the trenches”) are all around us, and we have no excuses. Let’s go “stir things up”, in our world!

~ Justina Dee

Find out more about Mercy House Kenya by clicking here

Meet the Welch Family here: We Are That Family

We LOVE the beautiful products made by the young women at Mercy House, and proudly display them in our home. It gives us the opportunity to remember them, pray for them, and tell others the story about what Maurine and The Welch family are doing! There are many ways you can support their work. Click here for more information: How You Can Help