Still Opening Presents

Last Thursday I stopped in to visit my grandma in order to spend some time with her before my departure for Faith Builders. We had a nice chat, and she was eager to show me her gifts. You see, she celebrated her 90th birthday at the end of July, and we (her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren) gave her ninety gifts. Since she is supposed to open only two per day in order to prolong the fun, she is still busy opening presents. We gave her mostly food items and other small useful things, and part of the enjoyment for her is in sharing the gifts.

“Make sure you have a chocolate before you leave,” she told me.

And then, as we looked at the gifts, it was, “Here, try this new kind of cracker.”

“You need to taste these cashew nuts.”

“Have a mint too.”

Wow, I can’t wait until I turn ninety :).

And then I thought to myself, This is exactly how I feel about my first year at Faith Builders—like I’m still opening presents long after the birthday is over. One thing I hoped to do on this blog this summer was to put words to some of the things I learned in my first year at Faith Builders, to try to explain some of why I am here and what this is all about, especially for those of you who have asked. Well, that didn’t happen. So now I’m back here at Faith Builders again, and all I can say is that the privilege of living and learning here is a gift so enormous and so multi-faceted that it will take me years to unwrap all of it.

Gifted Friends–Part 2

Last week I had a little reunion with some of my friends from high school. We’re still close friends, even though it’s been ten years since we graduated and we have been scattered to the four winds since then. One of us lives in Ontario and another in Indiana, and some of us have lived in foreign countries. So when one of the scattered ones visits the old home stomping grounds, it’s a good excuse for us to get together. Such was the case last week.

But times have changed. We used to get together and have deep discussions. We used to solve all the world’s problems! Impromptu prayer meetings were the norm. Now when we are together, it’s more like a circus. You see, my friends are engaged in the great heroic task of raising toddlers. This is not a job for the faint of heart.

Scene from lunch at our reunion: Toddler number one managed to tip her chair over backward at the table. She fell with it to the floor and immediately started howling. While Mom dealt with howling toddler, baby sister started screeching because she wasn’t getting any attention. Someone else’s toddler broke out in heartrending sobs because she was dismayed by the other’s cries. Then toddler number three started yelling just because everyone else was. (Maybe it’s a good thing that the friend with the two-year-old twins wasn’t with us this time). I thought to myself, Going to college is incredibly easy. Mammoth assignments, research papers, and looming deadlines? No problem! My life is so stress-free.

And so I admire these friends of mine and cheer them on. They are gifted with grace for this all-consuming work they are doing. And, you know, I believe we are doing a great deal more to solve the world’s problems by teaching two-year-olds to share their toys and to be kind to their baby sisters than we ever did with deep theological discussions.

Gifted Friends–Part 1

It is both delightful and humbling to have gifted friends. I am privileged to have many friends who are brilliant, artistic, creative, musical, etc. But let me tell you about one of my very best friends who happens to be gifted in a special way.

Her name is Kathi. She is gifted with an extra chromosome.

Yes, Kathi has Down’s syndrome.

“Wait a minute,” I hear you saying. “Down’s syndrome is a handicap, not a gift!”

I say it’s the rest of us who are handicapped. Kathi is gifted with impartiality and an enormously loving heart. I wonder if anyone else has told me, “I love you,” as often as Kathi has. I wonder if anyone else has given me as many hugs. And, believe me, you don’t know what a hug is until you have experienced an engulfing Kathi-hug!

Almost every time she sees me, she says, “You’re my best friend!” It’s not like I’ve ever done anything spectacular to be her friend. It just doesn’t take much to make her day. She finds joy in the simplest pleasures of life.

She is kind. She is loyal. She is helpful.

She is all that her Father created her to be.

Kathi brings sunshine to the lives of countless people, and she has taught me many things.

And to think that many children like her are killed before they ever have a chance to be born! It is the world’s loss.

Remember, it’s not a deficiency that causes Down’s syndrome. It’s something extra—that bonus chromosome. An extra gift.

How To Be Everyone’s Best Friend Instantly

At last I have learned the great secret. You want everyone to like you? You want everyone’s instant admiration and approval? It’s really quite simple: make donuts! This summer I am operating the apple cider donut stand at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm on Fridays and Saturdays, and I have never before felt like such a celebrity.

“Your donuts are amazing!”

“These things are addictive!”

“Oh, I’m so glad to see your donut stand is open again. Last year we came here on our vacation, and it was the highlight of our trip!”

I smile and say “Thank you,” though I really can’t take much credit for the way the donuts taste. All I do is slosh together some donut mix and apple cider, whirl it with the Kitchen Aid, then dump it into the donut machine. A fascinating little machine it is. People love to stop and watch the machine shape and fry the donuts. And of course they love to buy and eat donuts and gush over how good they are. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the overused expression, “selling like hotcakes.”

So it’s a fun job, and it’s good for me to work with the American public again after being in a rather insulated little realm at Faith Builders. Truly the world comes to Lancaster County; it’s not unusual if I hear half a dozen or more different languages in one day. A glance around the parking lot at almost any time of day reveals license plates from numerous states. Florida and California and New York are parked right there beside the Amish buggies. And then I get to answer all kinds of questions that tourists ask.

“Where can I take a buggy ride?”

“Is there really an Amish Mafia?”

“How come the Amish bicycles don’t have any pedals?”

“May I pose for a picture with you?” (Remember what I said about feeling like a celebrity?)

And here’s my favorite quote from today: “Here’s a tip for you. You probably get tired of dealing with tourists like us!”

The real proof that these donuts are delicious is that I still like to eat them, even after making thousands of them in the last month and a half. Now if only they would be as healthy as they are tasty . . .