Our Thanksgiving {Children’s Edition}

Happy Thanksgiving decorations by my daughter & niece

Thanksgiving decorations by my daughter & niece

The highlight of this year’s Thanksgiving celebration in our home was time spent with my adorable niece and nephews (the best in the whole-wide-world), who came to visit for the weekend. I’d love to share a few of my favorite moments with you!

It was a gorgeous weekend in Houston, Texas, and we started Thanksgiving festivities with delicious crepes made by my brothers.

Our Thanksgiving Breakfast Picnic

Our Thanksgiving Breakfast Picnic

After breakfast was cleaned up, the girls decorated and set the table – all by themselves! I love this picture of my niece, as we were in the process of carrying all the food to the table. Before digging in to our feast, we read the Pilgrim story about the five kernels of corn, represented at each plate around our table.

"Aunt Justina, Look at this HAM!"

“Aunt Justina, look at this HAM!”

I had so much fun with the kiddos throughout the weekend! We decorated gingerbread houses (made with kits from Trader Joes).

Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread Houses

Icing the gingerbread houses

Icing the gingerbread house

We may have eaten some candy and icing along the way. 😉

"Our gingerbread house is the best"

“Our gingerbread house is the best”

"No, OURS is the best!"

“No, OURS is the best!”

While taking pictures of our completed masterpieces, my nephew insisted upon sticking his foot in the picture.

One of the houses - and my nephew's foot

One of the houses – and my nephew’s foot

The same nephew wanted to show me his belly button in another shot.

Gingerbread House - and belly button

Gingerbread House – and belly button

The older children played Dutch Blitz for hours on end,

Dutch Blitz

Dutch Blitz

…while the little ones played with toys and climbed the stairs.

The stairs!

The stairs!

Cousins!

Cousins!

On Friday evening we made tin foil dinners. Each of the children did a great job preparing and seasoning their own packets.

Tin Foil Packet Dinners

Tin Foil Packet Dinners

Then we enjoyed the mildly cool evening and ate around the backyard picnic table, by the light of the campfire and our lanterns.

A twilight picnic

A twilight picnic

We followed dinner with S’mores. It was perfect.

Cousin love

Cousin love

The weekend came to an end all too quickly, and we said goodbye to aunts, uncles and cousins until next time! I love Thanksgiving because it begins what I truly believe is the most wonderful time of the year. To close, here is a video made for our grandmothers – of some great moments captured on the backyard swing set. Enjoy!

~ Justina Dee

 

 

On Making Butter…and Memories {Lessons from My Amish Family}

Butter Churn by Lehman's

Butter Churn by Lehman’s

One day I was driving down the road and a random commercial about butter played on the radio.

Waves of memories crashed over me, as I suddenly remembered a time my Grandma Lydia taught me how to make butter. I recalled standing on a stool beside her, as she explained the process, and showed me just how to turn the little handle on her glass churn.

As I remembered the sweet time with my Grandma, tears welled up in my eyes, began leaking down my cheeks and suddenly I was crying so hard I had to pull off the road till I could compose myself.

I realized something that day. My Amish family taught me that beautiful memories are not made of superficial stuff. The best memories are formed from simple and meaningful experiences.

Cousins having fun at Grandma & Grandpa's house

Cousins having fun at Grandma & Grandpa’s house

My grandparents never took me on fancy vacations, bought me clothes at the mall, or gave me the latest electronics. They never sat me in front of a television, or put the remote control for a gaming device in my hand.

Instead they invested time and love into the lives of those they cared about, just by being with us and living life alongside us. The memories I have with them are humble and modest, but powerful just the same. They were fully engaged and attentive in the everyday moments, creating meaningful, rich, and significant experiential memories that last and shine on for lifetimes.

Grandpa Jonas & Grandma Lydia's House in Churchtown, PA

Grandpa Jonas & Grandma Lydia’s House in Churchtown, PA where my parents live today

“In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.”
― Marge Kennedy

I have many precious memories of times with family in the dear old house pictured above. Experiential memories. The kind money can’t buy. Memories that formed the way I see the world today. I’m thankful for my grandparents. They were rich in the things that matter. Character, wisdom and love. And they took the time to share it all with me.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number 21 of a series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Click here to read more! 

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender

 

 

A Sabbath Pause

 

Sabbath Rest | www.lydiaglick.com | #write31days #31AmishDays

Sabbath Rest ~ Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron ~ Lancaster County, PA

Stop. Your life needs pause.

Rest.

This day is given to you.

Reflect on what is Lovely.

~

Inhale, exhale. Breathe.

Deep.

Your soul cannot survive without His love.

He is your Sustainer.

~

Unplug your ears to hear

Heaven.

The swells of the universe

Rejoicing in our Creator.

~

Lift up your eyes and see

Jesus.

The One who calls you His own.

Repose here in His presence.

~

He is our Sabbath rest.

~

As a child I didn’t fully appreciate Sundays at my Amish grandparent’s home. Frankly, I thought it was a bit boring. Of course being there was fun, and Sunday’s family dinner was always delicious. But things were very quiet, and that’s not very exciting for any child. On Saturday, provisions were made in anticipation of the day of rest. After church and the meal (the Amish do not eat at restaurants or go shopping on Sundays), the house was calm and peaceful. There were no football games blaring from a television. There was no music to distract. Just books to read, and conversation & fellowship with family and community. Yes, we children played outside, but upon entering the house you could feel there was a reverence for this holy day. Now I understand. My Amish family knew what it meant to rest on the Sabbath. And it was good. We should all take time to pause and be still on this blessed day. ~ Justina Dee

 This post is part of a series called 31 Lessons I Learned From My Amish Family. Click here to read more. 

Links:

Wise words regarding the Sabbath:

Tim Keller – The Sabbath 

Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy, by John Piper

Practical ways to observe the Sabbath, by John Piper

 

A Sense of Community {Lessons From My Amish Family}

Community #LydiaGlick.com #write31days #31AmishDays

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

Community is a buzz word these days. But in spite of all the discourse, it’s rare to find groups of people who live in fellowship with each other for a lifetime, let alone multiple generations.

“Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.” ― Jean Vanier

At the very core of the Amish people is their sense of communal values. Sociologist Donald Kraybill says; “All of their daily practices are shaped and formed by their religious beliefs. Very few of us will ever become Amish, but I think we can learn some things from them regardless of our religious background. And I think some of the most important things are a sense of community, a sense of family, and the sense in which our daily practice shapes our religious outlook.”

The Amish and Mennonite people don’t simply talk when it comes to helping and supporting their brothers & sisters within their community. They’re entirely committed to being there for each other when challenging times arise, or when disaster strikes. They have a profound respect for others, and demonstrate what it looks like to live by the Golden Rule. One of the Amish customs I most admire is the way they care for their aging family members.

“Where there is not community, trust, respect and ethical behavior are difficult for the young to learn and for the old to maintain.” ― Robert Greenleaf

A most dynamic display of this strength in the Amish community is the barn raising. In case you haven’t yet seen it, here’s a video so you can understand how extraordinary it truly is!

Another way the Amish-Mennonites foster the sense of community is through their quilting. LancasterPA.com says “Amish women of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country have been creating exquisite Amish quilts since the mid-1800′s (and some believe even earlier). Amish quilts are an expression of frugality. They not only serve a practical, functional purpose, but serve as a form of entertainment as well. Many times groups of Amish and Mennonite women gather for a quilting bee. The bee is a form of socialization and relaxation for these women. It’s a time when they can get together to visit and “catch up” with one another.

Although it’s not an AMISH quilt making video,  I believe the link provided below expresses the gracious story of how Amish and Mennonite women join hands to share love and beauty in tangible ways, while cultivating the culture of community.

Thank you for joining me on this #write31days project, as I share lessons I’ve learned from my Amish family! You can read more of my posts on the Amish way of life by clicking here. 

~ Justina Dee

 

Links:

Sociologist Don Kraybill discusses “The Amish Way”

Read more about how Amish beliefs shape their community

Read more about Amish quilts at LancasterPA.com

 

Simplicity & Order {The Rhythms of an Amish Life}

 

Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus. ~ Ann Voskamp | LydiaGlick.com #write31days #31AmishDays

Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron

I often hear myself and others saying “I wish life would just slow down. Everything’s just so complicated and chaotic.”

It’s one thing for us to decelerate life while on vacation. But freeing our lives of tumult and clamor in the everyday – that is entirely another story, and it can be exceedingly difficult to accomplish.

But if there’s anything thing the Amish people do abundantly well, it’s this. They’re masters of the rhythm of a simple and orderly life.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – E.F. Schumacher

Can you remember the last time you spent the day in a place still and quiet enough to hear the grandfather clock chime every hour, and the clip-clop of horses hooves on the road as a buggy passed by? Have you ever sat down at the kitchen table with your family to savor a home cooked meal for breakfast, lunch AND dinner every single day of the week? Or enjoyed the beauty of talking with your spouse, family or friends for the evening, without television, internet or telephone stealing away your focus from the people you love and care for? My Amish family can answer any of those questions with a hearty “yes”.

The goal is not to live poorly but to live richly in the things that really matter. | LydiaGlick.com #write31days #31AmishDays

Photo credit Kathryn Dienner

So how do they do it?

Simplicity begets order. Take away the “need” and the desire to keep step with modern society, and things begin to look very different.

Simplifying life requires deep conviction, firm resolve, unyielding discipline, strength of character, and a decision to live intentionally. When these things are in place, we won’t be tossed to and fro with every gust of societal wind that blows our way.

Through their intentional lifestyle, the Amish people have removed the beast of consumerism from their homes and lives. And as a result, things are simplified and there is capacity for order.

Today, I want to learn from my Amish family by thinking about one step I can take in the direction of intentional living, and then act upon it.

~ Justina Dee

Thank you for joining me as I join the #Write31Days challenge, and share things I’ve learned from my Amish family. You can read other posts in my series by clicking here. 

Special thanks to Julie Lea Waldron and Kathryn Dienner for the beautiful photos from Lancaster County, PA!

Link: Thoughts from James Watkins on Living Simply & Richly 

Beyond Buggies and Bonnets {Inside My Amish Family’s Home}

"Grussdaudy's House" - The home of my Amish grandparents | LydiaGlick.com #write31days #31AmishDays

“Grussdaudy’s House” – The home of my Amish grandparents

Turn off Route 340 in Gap, PA, pull into the gravel driveway, exit your car and walk up the path to the side entrance of a big, white plastered house. Open the door of a spotless mudroom where warm sunshine is beaming through the windows, black boots are lined up inside the door and a wringer washing machine and tub stands in the corner. You’ve just entered “Grussdaudy’s House”, the place where my Amish-Preacher Grandfather and his sweet bride (my grandmother) lived and raised my father – along with his thirteen siblings. I remember my grandfather’s salt and pepper beard tickling my cheeks as he wrapped me in his big hug, and my grandmother’s warm smile and hello, as she welcomed us inside their home.

Our family visited the house pictured above as often as we could. I treasure the busy mornings spent in the kitchen with Grussmommy, making breakfast of eggs and toast with her delectable homemade bread & jellies, along with fried oatmeal or scrapple. With no microwave or modern appliances in sight, it was essential to plan meals ahead of time. As a result, dinner and supper preparations often began in the morning. Grussmommy sent us children to the cellar to fetch canned goods, like a jar of peaches to serve with her delicious homemade chocolate cake for dessert. Sometimes we went outside to hang clothes on the line to dry. Being without the usual amenities was never boring, but instead a delightful and unforgettable adventure.

I loved the smell of fresh wood shavings that greeted anyone entering my Grussdaudy’s cabinet making shop. The fruit of his skilled craftsmanship filled the room. Tables, chairs, benches, hutches, shelves and specially ordered pieces were everywhere. Beside his shop was the phone shanty, used for business calls and emergencies. Sometimes Grussdaudy would take us for a short buggy ride. I can still hear the clip-clop of horse shoes on those Lancaster County roads, and feel the sway of the buggy as the horses turned a corner.

My favorite time at Grussdaudy’s house was in the evening after supper was finished. When the dishes were washed, dried and put away, and all the chores were completed for the day, Grussdaudy lit the kerosene lamps. Their faint hum and soft yellow light flooded the darkening house. We sat together in the great room, playing games, reading books in the soft light, talking and laughing. Grussdaudy sat in his special chair and read the Bible in German. Grussmommy would do needlework or other quiet projects. When it was time for bed, Grussmommy led us up the wooden stairs by the light of a small lamp, where we were tucked into bed with feather pillows and homemade quilts.

I’m thankful to have learned from my grandparents that the Amish are real, loving, gentle and hardworking people, not simply a novelty or quaint show for the rest of us who don’t live in their communities. Their lives are full of much deeper meaning than simply buggies and bonnets. And I thank God for the gift of the beautiful heritage given to me by Grussdaudy & Grussmommy, which I have the privilege of sharing with my children and grandchildren.

Thank you for joining me on this journey called #write31days.

~ Justina Dee

The homestead of my Amish ancestors in France | LydiaGlick.com #write31days #31AmishDays

The homestead of my Amish ancestors in France

My father’s Anabaptist ancestors left France and came to America in the 1800’s and settled in Lancaster County, PA, where thousands of my relatives still live today. You can visit Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society’s website here to learn some reliable facts about the history of the Mennonite and Amish people. 

Click here to read more posts from my Amish series 

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 

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.

SONY DSC

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

IMG_1359

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