All Roads Lead to New Glarus Pt. 1- A Travel/Memoir Series – Retelling of a Story

My father once said, “All roads lead to New Glarus.” Throughout the years a small town in Southwestern Wisconsin seems to have repeated itself in significance. Our tapestry has been woven traveling through, in and around this lovely weekend getaway spot. The rolling hills and deeply cut valleys reminded the early Swiss settlers of their homeland.

I’ll never forget the first time I found myself in New Glarus, Wisconsin. It was a late August afternoon, and the air was starting to smell like newly sharpened pencils. Locusts played their organ-grinding songs, and all that grows grew golden. Thoughts of going back to school lurked in the back of my mind, causing me to capture each moment and savor it like a piece of creamy, milk chocolate melting slowly over my tongue. Every hour was precious freedom.

My family strolled down the main street of a town proclaiming to be “America’s Swiss Village.” With almost-black rough wood beams criss-crossing over white stucco, the buildings looked like they could have been in Glarus, Switzerland. Under the windows, geraniums spilled out of flower boxes. Passing a storefront with sausages hanging in the window, my nose crinkled trying to distinguish the fragrance of spice and uncooked red meat, an odor foreign to my young nose. Church bells broke into exultation, signaling that it was half past the hour.

New Glarus Photos
This photo of New Glarus is courtesy of TripAdvisor

As my father opened the door to the New Glarus Baking Company, the unfamiliar tunes of an accordion playing bouncy polka music blasted into the street. A shaft of light streamed down the staircase and beckoned us to follow it’s guidance to the pinnacle and into the tea room.

I sat on the smooth, wooden chair, my feet almost touching the ground. the side of the table at which I sat was against the wall, facing the window. My parents sat across from me. They were surrounded by the bright sunshine, which created halos around their forms like the paintings on Eastern Orthodox icons. The tables were adorned with white linen cloths and napkins and in the center of each one was a bud vase with a silk red carnation reaching towards the ceiling. The waitress came to take our order wearing a customary Swiss peasant dress. She looked like a member of the Van Trap Family.

New Glarus Images
This photo of New Glarus is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Soon after ordering, my father was drinking a cup of coffee. Mother was checking a glass for water spots. I, on the other hand, was about to dive into a biscuit with a creamy chicken gravy, topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. My mouth watered. The sound of silver on china now accompanied the accordion as the velvety flavors exploded in my mouth.

Looking down on the last bite, I realized that just as I was about to enjoy the last of this delectable treat, I was also enjoying the last moment of my family vacation. Surprisingly, new notebooks, pens and shoes seemed like a welcome adventure after spending lazy days in the summer heat. I leaned back in my chair satisfied with my meal and with my fifth grade summer vacation.

To read the next installment of this story click here.

Linking with Imperfect Prose

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Penny, She Did Not Share Her Thoughts, But Her Life

It was a slice-of-pie piece of land; a wedge encased by two busy highways and a brand new tollway. For a long time, everything in me had been drawn to the house; wondering, yet waiting. When the expressway went up, I wondered if they’d tear it down. In fact, every time my family and I passed by the old farm, I would comment on it. I was certain that it was abandoned. There were never any cars in the driveway, or any lights on at night.

For years this went on, and yet it still stood, a snapshot of the past, surrounded by the present. Recently, while doing research for my historical fiction novel, I found an 1873 drawing  of the house. I decided to pay the home a visit. If I could spend time near the home, maybe I could feel the breath of my heroine coaxing me to finish her story.

As I pulled my car onto the gravel driveway, I entered another dimension; another century. Everything looked untouched. I headed to the back door for a peek through the window when I noticed that there were clothes flapping on a makeshift clothesline stretched out between two branches of a naked tree.  I stopped in my tracks, rethinking my assumption that the house had been abandoned. It was then that I noticed her. Way off in the distance, she was kneeling in a large vegetable garden, grey hair flying with the wind. I was startled, a little disappointed and more than a little intrigued. This was not what I had expected. I began walking in her direction, passing willow tree and vineyard.

“Hello?” I shouted over the ever increasing gale. Nothing.

“Hello?!” I tried a little louder. Still nothing.

“HELLO?!!” I was nearly upon her now, and still nothing. Was this an aberration?

“I must be losing it,” I told myself, “My love for history has taken over and I’ve gone somewhere in my mind that I might not be able to return from.” My heart pounded.

“HELLO?!!” I was now only a few feet away. She jumped.

“Oh, hello!” she stopped her planting and answered as though she’d been expecting me, but nonchalantly, as though I belonged there and as if we’d already spent hours talking and knew everything about each other. She went back to planting as if we were the kind of companions that continue on in comfortable silence.

“My name is Kim, and I’m writing an historical fiction novel about this area. Would you mind if I took a few pictures of your property?”

“That would be fine.”

“What is your name?” I inquired.

“Penny.” Now that I had her attention, I no longer needed to shout through the wind.

“I’m glad they didn’t tear this house down when they brought the expressway through,” I hoped to start a conversation with her, although she didn’t seem too keen on it, she was preoccupied getting those seeds in the ground.

“Oh, the historical society wouldn’t let them. This house is too important. It started as a log cabin in 1836, and they finished it the way it is now in 1840.  It took four years to finish.”

“I see.” I was taking a shot of the vineyard. “How long have you lived here?”

“My whole life. I inherited it from my father,” she answered.

I tried my best to engage her in conversation, but still her entire focus was on sowing those seeds.

I walked toward the house and snapped a couple of shots, and started toward my car again.  Looking back toward Penny to see if she was watching for a wave goodbye.  She wasn’t.  Instead she was kneeling on the rich black soil.  I wondered why that garden was so important to Penny.  She had to be in her eighties.  There wasn’t even a guarantee that she would enjoy the work of her labor.  Here I had come into her world as an opportunity for her to have someone listen to her past, something that many people her age seem to enjoy.  But Penny was more interested in the future, and what it would bring. Her diligence reminded my of an old D. L. Moody story:

The great evangelist D.L. Moody was asked, “What would you do today if you knew Jesus Christ was coming tomorrow?” His answer came, “I would plant a tree.”

How many of us make excuses not to plan for the future?  Not to dream big dreams?  In our minds, we are too young, too old, too weak, too fat, or too ordinary.  Penny didn’t let any of these excuses keep her from looking to the future.

How many of us say that we’re too tired or that something is too difficult?  Penny didn’t use that excuse.  Instead, she bent her eighty something year old body in half on the windiest day of the year and dug her wrinkled hands in black and crumbling Illinois soil.  Just being out of doors took determination that day, the wind wore me down like water on a stone in a wild and rushing river.

But Penny, she was untouched by the world, its climate, and its ways.  It may seem easier to go to the store and buy vegetables, but what do we miss when we don’t understand the parable of the sower?  We miss everything, according to Jesus. It may seem easier to dry clothes in a machine, but Penny’s clothes waved dry in a tree instead.  There was no machine to break down or replace, because there was always a rope and a tree.   What is simpler, really?  To have, or to have not?

Recently, I’ve taken up washing the dishes by hand.  My dishwasher wasn’t working properly and there were too many other things to attend to financially.  What freedom this has brought me!  I am no longer in bondage to a machine, the electric company for the use of the machine, and the repair man for the fixing of the machine.  This seems simpler to me.  In the Christian Classic Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes,

…refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.  Time-saving devices almost never save time..Most gadgets are built to break down and wear out and so complicate our lives rather than enhance them.

Finally, I realized that Penny has taught me more by her actions than she ever could by her words. She taught me with her life. She refuses to complicate her life with what the world deems necessary.  She works hard toward the future.

If someone were to come visit my slice-of-pie piece of land, what would they come away with?  Would they see someone hurried and panicked?  Someone who, although she seems to have many of the world’s most popular conveniences seems to be rushed and burdened both financially and in bondage to these same items?  Would they see someone who is easily distracted flitting from this project to the next without ever finishing any of them?

What would someone see if they were to visit your slice-of-pie piece of land?

 


 

A Donkey’s Journey Towards An Epiphany {A Repost}

I remember the first time I gave a man a ride on my back. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, the day the stranger came and took me away. When my master’s servant called out, “What are you doing with my master’s donkey?” The man simply replied, “The Lord has need of him,” and kept walking. For some reason, that was enough for the servant.

When we got to where we were going, there was a Man waiting for us. He smiled at the stranger, put his hand on his shoulder as if He was going to say something and then changed His mind, stroking my neck. And His touch was like the warm sunshine, warm and soothing.

The stranger and his friends placed their coats on me so that the Man could ride on me. We began to ride through the streets and there were people assembled alongside the road as if they were expecting a parade. They were waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest.”

“Apparently, this man on my back is very important,” I thought, “I must be pretty important as well, to carry such a famous man.”

The people laid down the branches at my feet, making the road before me much more comfortable than the usual dry and dusty road. The longer we went, the more excited the people became, jumping and cheering, clapping and waving.

Finally, we came to the Temple, and He dismounted me. After stroking my nose, He went in. Another of my master’s servants came to me and said, “There you are. How did you get here?” He was further confused by the coats draped across my back. “Strange!” he said as he led me to the Temple stables for food and water.

“Who was that man, I had on my back?” I asked a mare who had been alongside the road and was now being groomed in the Temple stables.

“He is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

“A prophet!” I thought. Why would a prophet want to ride a lowly donkey like me?

In the days that followed, I remembered what it was like to carry that Man on my back, His gentle smile and touch. I remembered the honor with which the people were greeting Him and felt warm inside that I should be chosen to give Him a ride.

About five days later, I was back home in my stable when I heard a commotion. I went to look out of the window in my stall. Once again, there were people lined up along the side of the road. “I wonder if the Prophet is having another parade?” I thought out loud. My ears perked up hoping He would choose me to ride on again. The oldest donkey in the stable, Old One, came alongside me.

This crowd was different, although I recognized many of the same faces. They were silent and suspicious. Many men had their arms crossed, or watched stroking their beards. Further down the road, I noticed a Man. He looked like the Prophet I had carried, but it couldn’t be Him. This man had been beaten, and had a crown of thorns on His head causing him to bleed. The drops of blood were dripping into His eyes, and He had gashes of open flesh on his back and legs. But the most obvious reason that I knew it must not be Him was that this Man carried a cross, and even I knew that crosses were reserved for criminals.

“Who is that Man?” I said to the Old One.

“That is the same man you gave a ride to five days ago,” he whinnied.

“That can not be! He was a good man. I know He was. I could tell by His touch. He couldn’t be deserving of such treatment! Especially by the same people who were honoring and praising Him just a few days ago.”

“Nevertheless, it is the same Man,” Old One responded.

“He must have done something wrong, for the people to allow this to happen!” I said. I was surprised at the feeling of shame I had for having carried this man. What would people think? I have transported a criminal, a prisoner?

“There are many reasons people will persecute another man. Often times, it has nothing to do with whether they have done something wrong or not. I only know that this Man comes from God.”

The road passed quite close to my stable, and the Prophet (or was He a criminal?) was almost even with my window now. He stumbled and fell under the weight of the heavy cross He carried. A soldier came and kicked Him, as He struggled to His feet. The Prophet looked up at us, and I could swear He gave a slight smile.

I turned my eyes downward, feeling guilty for my previous feeling of doubt.

I stirred up all of my courage and looked out the window again. With great effort, He lifted the cross from the road.

“But Old One, this isn’t fair! He is a good man. These people, how can they change their opinion of someone so quickly?”

Old One stayed silent, and I remembered how quickly I had gone from pride to embarrassment about my associations with Him.

Just then, a little further up the road, a weeping woman came into the Man’s path.

“I once gave this Man and woman a ride,” Old One reflected.

“You did?” I was amazed that he had never mentioned this before, especially in light of the fact, that I had repeated the story of my ride with the Prophet often in the past few days.

“Yes, I gave them a ride many years ago when I was about your age. This woman was great with child. There were no inns with available rooms that day, and she bore the baby, the Prophet, right there in the stable where I was resting from the long ride. This Man is from God. He is special. There were angels in the room and shepherds came to worship Him. He slept in the very manger I had eaten out of earlier that evening. The stars even sang and worshiped celebrating His arrival. This man is not merely a Prophet, but the Son of God.”

“Can’t we do something? Can’t He do something? Isn’t He known for His miracles?”

“I believe He could do something, but chooses not to.”

“Old One, what will happen if the people kill this Son of God? Will the world end?”

“I do not know,” Old One moved away from the window and laid down with a humph.

All morning, I wondered what was happening to this Son of God. Had the people come to their senses? Did they remember that just a few days before they had been worshiping this man? I also remembered how He smiled at me, even with the burden of His cross, even after I had be ashamed for a moment at having given Him a ride.

Later that day, my master decided to go to the Temple. “Let’s take you out for your first ride,” he said. I guess he didn’t know that the Son of God had already taken me out for a ride.

As we rode toward the Temple, the sky began to darken, and the wind began to blow. Just before we arrived at the Temple, the dust around my feet began to swirl, lightening began to flash. I thought back to my conversation with Old One. Was this the end? Did they kill the Prophet, the Son of God? The ground began to quake. The whole earth was shaking. I began to bray as I lost my balance. People everywhere were running and shouting, “This is the end! What is happening?” Priests ran out of the Temple shouting something about the curtain being torn and that we would all surely die. And then, just as quickly as it all started, it was finished. My master got up and dusted himself off. He checked to see if I was okay, petting my neck. He led me into the Temple stables where pandemonium still ruled the day, and went into the Temple to see if his help was needed.

The servants worked hard to calm the animals. They hadn’t had such a stir in quite some time. About a half an hour later, a strong military horse came into the stables. He began to speak about what he had seen that afternoon. He said that his master was a Roman soldier who had been at that afternoon’s crucifixion.

photo credit: bela_kiefer

“Jesus, the Prophet was on the center cross, and two thieves were on either side of Him,” he started.

“One of the thieves,” he continued, “cried out sarcastically, ‘Are you not the Christ? Rescue Yourself and us from death!’

But the other soldier answered him, ‘Do you not even fear God? We suffer justly receiving what we deserve, but this Man has done nothing out of the way.’

Then he turned to Jesus and said, ‘Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingly glory!’

And then Jesus answered, ‘Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’

And then the sky began to darken and the wind began to blow. The men on the hill tried not to look nervous or frightened, but their scent betrayed them.

The ground began to shake when Jesus cried out, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!’ That is when my master recognized his part in what had happened. He fell to his knees weeping, and saying, ‘Indeed, without question, this Man was upright!'”

photo courtesy of Dustin Blay

The horse paused here, as if for dramatic effect. “My master gently and tenderly helped take this Man off of the cross and draped him over me. He and another man took His body to a tomb. His blood remains on me this moment.”

Some of the Temple groomers had come into the stalls now. They paid special attention to the military horse, combing and brushing his coat, washing the blood from his sides.

“Some say, this Jesus was the Son of God,” one said.

“I fear He must have been, for Whose death causes heaven and earth to respond in such a way? I heard that it was this horse that carried His body to the tomb. It is His blood on our hands.”

“Did you hear that He forgave the very men who killed Him?”

The rest of the day the Temple stable was silent. My master came out later, quiet and questioning. When we got back to the stable, Old One was waiting for me. After I told him the horse’s story, I said, “Old One, those men didn’t deserve to be forgiven. Some of them were the very same ones who had given Jesus the parade a few days ago. They deserve no forgiveness.”

Old One chuckled a raspy old donkey chuckle, “Perhaps this is why He came. To give man (and your case, donkey) the ability to forgive.”

I remembered Jesus’ eyes when I looked through the window, ashamed at my association with Him. They were eyes of forgiveness. Earlier that day, I had wondered if it was the end of the world, but now I had a feeling it was the beginning of a new world. A world for which God cared enough to send His Son to forgive even the worst betrayal. A world in which man now had an example of forgiveness. It was then that I realized that forgiveness changes everything, because forgiveness had changed me.

Written by kd sullivan Easter 2011

It’s Not Nice to be Mean – Guest Post Adela Crandell Durkee – Painting Prose

Adela’s Once A Little Girl was one of the first blogs I stumbled upon as I began my blogging habit. I’ve been hooked ever since! She’s made me laugh out loud on several occasions, and then in the middle of my laughter, she’s brought a catch in my voice with a point driven home.  Adela’s words are written with such nostalgia and her voice brings me back to so many sweet memories. She is also the first blogger I found who lived in the same metropolis as I do…and we’re even meeting up at a writer’s conference soon! Needless to say, I can’t wait to hug her neck. I’m sure you will enjoy writing as much as I have!

When I was a little girl it was important to be nice.  Captain Kangaroo told me the magic words:  “Abracadabra, Please and Thank you.”  If I forgot, Mom or Dad reminded me, “Now what are the magic words?”
When I was in Kindergarten, I had a bunch of teachers, one at a time, most of the names I forgot, but I remember Mrs. Brown.  She was mean.  My older sister, Deanna, had Mrs. Markley; she was just like a grandma, so nice.  For some reason Mrs. Markley was out of school when I got to Kindergarten, I never figured out why; I thought maybe she died, ’cause teachers lived in the school, so if she wasn’t there, she must have died.  But the next year, Mrs. Markley was back; all the rest of the kids in my family had Mrs. Markley. I wondered where she went the year I started school.
The new teacher, Mrs. Brown was not nice; she was mean. Mrs. Brown told me I had to drink white milk, no chocolate milk, even if that’s what Mom wrote down for me to order.   “We don’t need to bother Mr. Rex with all these special orders.”  Mrs. Brown told the class.  Mr Rex always smiled when he delivered the milk. He was in charge of the whole school, he had a chain hooked to his belt with keys to every door in the entire school,  and he was super-nice.  Mr. Rex was the janitor.

Mrs. Brown had big “bowls” that hung way down below her waist; when she bent over they brushed on the table, and she kept a wrinkly hankie tucked in her belt.  I think she used the same hankie all week.  Her face was all pinched and grumpy like her hair got pulled back in her bun too tight so she was starting to get a headache, and she smelled like cottage cheese and boiled eggs.  One day she passed out brown construction paper with a picture of a leaf on it.
“You can color your leaf any color you want, because fall leaves are colorful.”  she told us.  I colored mine yellow, like the hickory tree in the field behind my house; Mom put hickory nuts in the cookies she baked.  Dale colored his leaf green.  Mrs. Brown picked up Dale’s leaf and held it up for everyone to see.  I thought she was gonna tell us how beautiful it was, ’cause everything he did was the best; I loved Dale.
“Children.”  she said.  Mrs. Brown always called us ‘children’, I don’t think she knew our real names.
“Look at this leaf.”  she pulled her eyebrows down low and together, so they touched each other.  That was not a nice face to pull, I knew that.
“No Fall leaves are green.”  Now she was shouting and Dale looked like he wanted to cry, except he knew that big boys don’t cry, and he wanted everyone to know he was a big boy.  It’s okay for big girls to cry.  No one told me that, but I saw Mom cry lots of times, sometimes she even cried what she called happy tears, like when Dad gave her something nice on Mother’s Day when she thought he forgot,  and me and Bonita had already made her mad by picking lilacs and breaking some of the branches down, and she tried hard to act happy.  So I knew big girls cry for all kinds of reasons, but not big boys, they never cry.  If big boys feel like crying they just swallow hard, till the feeling goes away.  Dale was  swallowing  so hard pretty soon he was going to have a stomach ache.
I piped right up, ’cause I had a really good memory.  “You said we could color them any color we wanted.  Remember?”  I probably don’t need to tell you that my helping made things a whole lot worse.
That night after supper, I told Dad that Mrs. Brown was mean.  He sat me on his lap and listened to the whole story.  One really good thing about my Dad, he was a very good listener.  He listened to every bit:  about the milk, about the coloring the leaves,  about Dale swallowing hard, and about me reminding Mrs. Brown.  I left out the part about how I loved Dale, but he might have known anyway.  Sometimes he knew stuff, the way Mom did, although his powers were a bit weaker.
“Maybe she just had a bad day.’ he offered.
“If that was it, she has an awful lot of bad days.  Like every day.”  I looked up into his blue eyes; they were calm and clear, like her was figuring out an arithmetic problem in his head.
“Well, tomorrow, I want you to go right up to Mrs. Brown, put on your best smile and say, ‘Good morning, Mrs. Brown.  How are you today?’  I bet that will get her day off to a good start, and things will go a whole lot better.”  I must have looked doubtful, ’cause then he said, “You’ve got the best smile I ever saw.  That smile will charm the socks right off Mrs. Brown.”
I still had my doubts, and I wasn’t that interested in seeing Mrs. Brown’s feet, but the idea of her socks flying off was pretty funny, so I started to laugh. Besides that, Dad knew a lot, like how to tell arrowheads from rocks and how to tie a hook on a fishing line, so I trusted him.  The next day, I marched right up to Mrs. Brown, and said just like Dad told me:  “Good morning Mrs. Brown.  How are you today?”
She smiled right down at me and said.  “Now, don’t dawdle, go hang your coat up.”  I was thinking about saying “Abracadabra, please and thank you.”  but I wanted that smile to stay right where it was, so I stayed quiet.
A couple of weeks later, Mrs. Brown was gone, and we had a new teacher, who must have been nice, because I would have remembered another mean one.  I found out years later, that the principal asked Mrs. Brown to “step down’ and she did.  I heard she suffered from depression, which in those days, went undiagnosed for most people.  I’m glad that Dad gave me the advice he did; I got to feel like I had a little control, while the parents worked things out behind the scene.    Of course I’m not always nice;  it’s good to know I have a (w)itch  in my tool belt when I really need her,  but I prefer to be nice.  I feel a lot better about myself and I end up feeling better about whatever meanie I come up against.  And I try to keep in mind, that the meanie might be dealing with problems that are far beyond my comprehension. Besides, smiling is infectious, and I love smiling.

Drop a note in the comment section to let Adela know how much you enjoyed hearing about her childhood.

If this is your first time here, let me explain what we are all about. We are a community started by Emily Wierenga. It was called Imperfect Prose. She is on a bit of a vacation as she has some extra responsibilities at the moment.

If you are new, please check out Emily’s blog. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and you need to be acquainted with the woman who made all of this happen!

JourneyTowardsEpiphany

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Apparently, I Have A New Occupation! – Painting Prose Community

Many of you commented on how beautiful my button is!  I love it, don’t you?  My art student son made it for me…but there is a funny story.

It was rather late, and he had way too many things to do.  To be honest with you, I probably had no business asking him to do it for me.  But I did…and when I told him the name, he looked at me funny.

“Why are calling it that?”  he said.

“Because the lady I’m doing it for is a painter, and it’s kind of a play on words,” I answered.

He shrugged.  The next morning I had an e-mail from him.  It had an attachment with a button much like this one, except that it said, “Painting Pros”.  Suddenly, I understood the quizzical look on his face the previous day!

 

If this is your first time here, let me explain what we are all about.  We are a community started by Emily Wierenga.  Her meme was called Imperfect Prose. She is on a bit of a meme vacation as she has some extra responsibilities at the moment.  If you have a piece of writing that you would like to share here, please link up with us, include the button with your blog post, and visit other community members in order to spread some love and encouragement.

If you are new, please check out Emily’s blog.  It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and you need to be acquainted with the woman who made all of this happen!

 

JourneyTowardsEpiphany

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The Story of Valentine’s Day – Guest Post by Craig From Deep Into Love

Happy Valentine by Hamid Eslami (hammmyd)) on 500px.com
Happy Valentine by Hamid Eslami

February 14, 269 AD

Her face is round, as are her eyes…
and dark and deep…
and head lowered…
a voice as veiled as her face…
she lilts a whispered “I do”.

His arms strong, chiseled chin, brown locks…
eyes even softer than hers…
like a doe in the forest.

He places his hand to her chin.
Raises it to until her eyes meet his…
and says in definitive and loving tone…
“I do”.

There are three witnesses to the ceremony, God, myself, and a single dove resting on a vine branch in the courtyard. They had come, cloaked and dark, hushed footsteps entering my home, hooded heads, like thieves, indiscernible against the morning mist.

There were the three knocks on my door…
then the pause…
then one more single rap upon the wood.
Three…

and…
One.

So I opened my door and began the ceremony ending in the joyful declarations of both that they would love, and cherish until death. Entering as two they departed as one. A few coins tossed in the fountain as they left. Nods exchanged between them and myself as they scuttled off down the path to the sound of morning larks.

No one will know but us.
No one can.
This marriage is secret.
They all must be.

As they left Antony entered, my friend, another of God’s priests, “You can’t continue to do this.” His first words to me, not good morning, but these. I brushed the comment aside like dust off of a windowsill.

My answer came as easily as breath,“The Emperor’s decree cannot stop the will of God. What’s one more secret marriage, two more outlaws. I’ll make the whole land outlaws and he’ll be able to arrest no one.”

The decree of Claudius that there will be no marriage in Rome is too obvious in nature. Married men, he thinks, don’t enlist, don’t fight the invading hordes to the north. So he thinks by outlawing marriage his army will grow. But Claudius will not win. There will be marriage among God’s people.

If they choose to fight, the decision is theirs.

He wants an army armed with swords and daggers.
I’ll build an army of Christian Love, by marriage.
And I know this…
within a generation the Kindgom of God…
will overtake the Glory of Rome…

The setting of this story is a quiet little hamlet in the heart of the Roman Empire, called Interamna. The location is fact, The decree to outlaw marriage by the Roman emperor Claudius in 269 AD is fact too. The priest conducting the secret marriages is fact as well. The rest…

a bit fiction to lend body to the story that will unfold over the days between here and the holiday bearing his name.

It’s my Valentine gift for you.

That’s his name, by the way, the priest.

He is Valentine, Bishop of Interamna…

and you’ve not heard this story, not told this way…

of secret marriages…

and love…

and Valentine’s day.

Craig has two wonderful blogs. Deep Into Love and Deep Into Scripture. My favorite part of his bio is when he writes that he is a “perpetual weeble, occasional rock”…isn’t that the truth for all of us? He makes me smile.This magnificent piece comes as a series and has oodles more parts…for the next installment please click here.  Make sure that you read the rest of the story of St. Valentine!

Friday Favorites – High School Teachers and a Guest Post at Lessons From Teachers and Twits

I started reading and commenting on Renee’s blog Lessons From Teacher’s and Twits and stalked her like a rock star. Her posts are filled with wittiness, humor and occasionally a little heartbreak. It wasn’t until I wrote a post about quitting blogging that I realized that I was even a blip on her radar. She held up my arms as in the story of Moses, and stirred up the blogging community to do the same when I considered a permanent break from blogging.

As a teacher, she genuinely cares about her students…how I would love to sit in her classroom one day…

Speaking of teachers, today I’m over at Renee’s writing about my favorite high school teacher Mr. Reichert. Please join me! I’d love to honor his memory by having you read about this amazing teacher. Plus I’d like to have you tell me something you had to memorize during your school career!

Dear Mr. Reichert.

friday favorite things | finding joy

Waiting. With Anticipation. – Day 8 Photo Scavenger Hunt

Waiting. With Anticipation.

Each day, children wait
to open the presents under the tree.
Cradling pacakges,
they check them for size and shape,
weight and balance.
Shaking them to discover
if they make a sound.
Breathless, trembling,
they anticipate opening day.
Filled with awe and wonder.

Each day, we wait
to find the gifts He’s left behind.
Cradling His love letter,
We whisper words of praise,
singing songs of delight.
We search for unexpected
objects of beauty
in places so obvious
That they aren’t noticed anymore.
Breathless, trembling
We are filled with awe and wonder.

Giving thanks today with Ann:

84. Snow, a Christmas miracle.

85. Grown up daughter baking Christmas cookies while listening to music that I haven’t asked to listen to…someday I’ll miss this…

86. Nutella and pretzels.

87. Seeing daughter bring the house down in Christmas production.

88. Looking at the beautiful stage my son helped design for the production at church.

89. Going out to eat with two of my favorite guys…

90. Cutest present under the tree.

Congratulations to Jennifer at To Tell You The Truth for winning the angel photo prompt!

I know that this week will be busy for all of us, so I’ve decided to post the week’s photo prompts:
Monday – A Gift
Tuesday – Salvation Army Bellringer
Wednesday – Advent Calendar
Thursday – Snowflake
Friday – Nativity

The linkup will be from now through Friday. I will go through the posts and gather the pics for the correct days. Thanks so much for your participation, this has been fun! Link up your post featuring a photo with a theme listed above. Include my blog button, and visit other “hunt” blogs. Stop by tomorrow to vote for your favorite “gift” picture. Have fun! (Blog links must be provided before 7:00 AM CST, in order to be voted on 🙂 ) I have no idea why the number of links doesn’t update…There are participants!



There were no entries for the outdoor lights photo contest.

and with dearest Michelle:

A Big Mistake – New Glarus Series – Saturday Morning Serial Linkup

If you need to catch up in the New Glarus Series click here.

firefly
Photo by Matt McGillivray

John and I arrived in Wisconsin on the unseasonably warm Friday evening before Memorial Day. My father was just finishing the mowing on the acre of property. Their home, being an “earth home” had the unusual feature of having grass on top, and the riding mower was grazing the roof at the time. Mama was outside finishing Wisconsin brats on the grill, and I pulled into the long black driveway, shaking away the remnants of memories from the accident. Sue was gone now. After almost a year, Steve had been interested in me, but I told him to go away, and now he was dating someone else. I was surprised at how much that stung. John was unbuckling his seat belt, climbing out of the car, and running toward Papa so that he could ride on the mower with him.

I sat in the car for a moment watching the light turn the trees into black shadows against the almost green sky. Mama’s face showed up in the window. It startled me.

“Are you gonna get out?” she said giggling.

Darkness deepened as the evening wore on, and Daddy, Mama, John and I went to the back of the yard to make a campfire to roast marshmallows and s’mores. It felt as though summer was official, with the first real cookout and campfire. The trees flickered orange and the flames warmed our front sides in the chilly late spring air…and I wondered. What would it be like coming up to Wisconsin, to New Glarus, or living life for that matter, with Steve and the kids? Would it have been so terrible?

Mama was running back from the garage with John. They were going to look for flashlights. Daddy leaned back on a log, “You seem awfully quiet this visit. Is everything okay?”

“I’m just glad to be here for a few days. It’s good to clear my mind,” I answered.

“Mommy! Grandma and I are going to go for a walk in the dark, do you want to come?”

“Okay,” glad to escape my father’s probing, I responded with fake enthusiasm. The first fireflies flickered in a circle around five-year-old John’s head, crowning him prince of the land, for that was what he was.

“Grandma! Lightening bugs! Can we get some jars and catch some?” Mama and John skipped back into the house to look for some mason jars to poke holes in, leaving me to amble across the nearly black lawn alone. Daddy was putting out the campfire, and my hands were sticky from marshmallows, so I decided to go in and wash them.

As I opened the connecting garage door, I heard this, “Spencer and Esther have never caught fireflies. They don’t have a mommy anymore.”

“Yes, honey, I know,” Mama responded.

“I think they might get a new mommy soon though. Spencer said that Kevin might be his brother soon.”

“Really? That would be so nice for all of them!”

“I wanted to be Spencer’s brother.”

The wind caught the door behind me slamming it shut.

I jumped as though I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

“Hello, you two!” I quickly recovered. “My hands are all sticky, but I’ll help you catch fireflies when I’m done washing them.”

My heart pounded as I went to the bathroom. I heard Mama and John chatting, and I looked in the mirror above the sink. Eyes rimmed pink, and face splotchy from tears, it was then that I realized, I had made a terrible mistake.

To continue on with this story click here.

 


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Disbelieving Divorce – New Glarus Series- Saturday Morning Serial Linkup

As I lived alone in shame and pain, I cried out to God…Who am I? If you need to catch up on the New Glarus series, click here.

Broken beyond belief…

Useless damaged goods.

Where do I go from here?

If I am not Mrs. then who am I?

If I’m not Christian married mother

What. Am. I?

My mother always said my mouth would get me into trouble someday.

These are those days.

I could not stay silent.

Stay silent when he turned his back on me, on us, on God.

I paid the price.

Discarded like a piece of trash,

Crumpled like a written mistake.

Hurt. Alone. Frightened.

Strong hands pick me up.

A few people look past my shame.

They risk their reputation

To uphold mine.

The sun still shines but it is dark

and I wonder if I will ever see light again.

Thirteen years of precious life.

Gone. Spent. On the wrong person?

Perhaps.  In the wrong way?

Definitely.

I. Don’t. Believe. in Divorce.

But Divorced I Am.

 

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Welcome to the Saturday Morning Serial Linkup! Here’s what you need to do to participate. If you have a weekly series you post, whether fiction or nonfiction, please feel free to join our community. First, you’ll need to fill out the form below. Then you’ll need to add our Saturday Morning Serial Linkup Button to your series blog post. Lastly, you’ll need to visit some of the fine writers who will be adding their posts here. It would also be great to hear from you! So comments here would be appreciated!!

Let’s get started!