Prairie View

Monday, August 29, 2011

Prelude to the Wedding

Whenever someone asks how Grant and Clarissa met, I almost always feel compelled to offer some sort of apology, or disclaimer, or at least continue the story in a bit of a regretful tone of voice. Bob and Kathy feel the same way, I learned.

I sometimes start out by saying they met on the internet, and then quickly add "but it's not as bad as it sounds," or "but not on a dating site."

At other times I say, "Oh it's embarrassing . . ."

In some of our earlier correspondence with Clarissa's parents, her mother wrote, "Since this was our first experience with a computer-generated courtship, we were very cautious." I would certainly have hoped so. No disagreement there.

Here's a blow by blow account of what I know of how things transpired. First, a caveat: Grant is the most tight-lipped member of our family, so I've had to read between the lines, pump him for information, or count on intelligence from a variety of sources to put this picture together. On a few occasions, he has been forthcoming--more so of late than earlier.

Some time ago, Grant's friend, Connie H. (who is the niece of my brother-in-law, Matthew) suggested to Grant that he might enjoy reading some of Shaunti Feldhan's books. She is a Christian author who writes about male/female differences. Her books are quite popular and have made their mark in the business world--which is the focus of some of her writing. Grant bought some of her books, and then looked up her website, where he found an active young people's forum. He began participating in the conversations and, somewhere along the line, mentioned his Mennonite identity. He was attending a BMA church at the time.

Clarissa picked up on that and responded with information about her own connection with Mennonites--their family's former association, in her case. At some point they began to correspond personally outside the forum. Her mother told me recently that she talked to them early on about "that Mennonite guy." Grant was not talking to us about Clarissa yet, and we were clueless. (Do you hear that clucking sound?)

At some point, Grant got interested enough to give her father a call. He suggested that Grant come for a visit. That was when Grant first told us about the friendship. Last week I told Bob I was glad Grant had talked to him early on, and Bob said, "I'm sure Clarissa knew it wasn't going anywhere unless he did." So this move might have been as much practical as noble. Bob also told Clarissa that she and Grant needed to have some face time. This long-distance friendship couldn't/shouldn't go on too long without that. Bob had a specific suggestion: Grant should come to Washington and surprise Clarissa on her 20th birthday.

I was dubious about that plan at first. To Grant I said, "You make sure this is alright with her mother. If it's just a plan the men hatched up, it might not go over so well with the ladies." Grant dutifully reported back that Kathy thinks it's OK. (I found out last week that Grant told them his mom is a little worried . . . That means he was listening to me!)

Bob met Grant at the airport and they had dinner together. The plan was that if all went well (read: if Grant passed inspection), he would take Grant to a sleeping place near the Prettyman home, and they would reveal the secret the next day. Grant was deposited at the Beckman's after dark. They are close neighbors and good friends of the Prettymans.

Mrs. Beckman told me that they didn't know for sure about having this guy they'd never met spend the night at their house. Bob told us that she asked him how they know he's not a serial killer or something. Bob cheerfully told her, "That's why he's sleeping at your house the first night."

The next morning, someone sneaked Grant along the back trails of the property into the guest room/office building in the clearing near the family home. There was a big family birthday breakfast planned, and when Clarissa was ready for it, her family told her that she should go first to the shed--their name for the little finished-out mini-barn--for something that came for her birthday. Prior to this, her sister Angeleise had seated herself on top of a file cabinet out there, camera in hand. As soon as she left the house, someone called Grant to warn him that she was on her way. He waited on the couch.

Clarissa opened the door, and Grant said, "Hi, Clare." She stared, and put her hand in front of her mouth, and giggled, and then finally gave him a hug.

The visit went quite smashingly, and when he got home, he was talking of spending the winter in Washington. We thought that might be a good thing, partly because both of his jobs here were seasonal, and he didn't have much to do during the winter. Someone in Washington said he would have work for Grant, doing snow removal. Clarissa visited here within the next few months, and shortly after she returned home, Grant followed. He left just before Thanksgiving, and came back to Kansas on March 1.

The job never materialized, which was a disappointment, so Grant spent the winter doing lots of jobs around the homestead. That was very much appreciated. Clarissa's siblings loved him and he had a good time with them. I was glad for this chance he had to experience life in a big family. As the youngest child in our small family, life got pretty quiet here sometimes. He came home with "Emma" stories--the precocious 3-year old who was everyone's pet.

Grant and Clarissa became engaged around Valentine's Day, so wedding plans were being made when Grant returned to Kansas. Clarissa spent two months here later, mostly in April and May. By then plans were in place to live in Kansas, because that's where Grant had work, and we began to work on the Trail West house where we used to live, and where we hope to live again some day. Clarissa did lots of painting and she and I planted a garden. Shane had done a lot of work on remodeling the kitchen and bathroom before Clarissa got here.

The logistics of finding a suitable wedding date were challenging because of needing to be before fall harvest (for Grant), before school (for me), not in Bob's busy season with his business (He lost out on this score.), when the church was available, and when a pastor to marry them was available (Their pastor was on vacation in August.), and when Angeleise was not away at camp. August 20 worked better than any other date, so that's when it happened. The pastor who married them was not their current pastor, but the family had attended his church earlier.

Grant and Clarissa haven't settled on a church home here. Clarissa's Baptist parents and we are praying about this. I'm not sure if we're praying exactly the same prayers, but I do know that all of us parents want to see them committed to a church with a track record of obedience to Scripture and in a place where someone with a shepherd's heart will challenge and nurture them in the path of discipleship.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The People

As Clarissa said last night, Mennonites play the "connections" game better than anyone else. I'm on for such a game.

The big surprise was on Wed. eve. in church after we got back when Henry Schrock exclaimed, "So Grant got married to Bob Prettyman's daughter!" He remembered Bob--something we had never thought to inquire about. Link
In Washington, where we knew very few people, we nevertheless discovered quite a few common friends and past experiences. They were present among the Pine Grove Mennonites, the Deer Park Mennonites, and the ex-Mennonites in the Clayton/Deer Park/Chewelah, WA area north of Spokane.

Sherilyn (Hertzler) Martin and I were in the same Writer's Workshop for a number of years. Her parents and sister go to Pine Grove. Sherilyn co-authored a book, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, with Sue Hooley. At Sherilyn's request I had critiqued the book, and I think I had at least one contribution to the text. I met Sue Hooley for the first time at Pine Grove. We also met Clayton Eveleth, who said he had been at Bible school in Hartville years ago with Daniel Nisly. Charlie Kessler told Hiromi that Henry Schrocks from our church sometimes stayed with them when they passed through on their way to western Washington where they used to drive to spend the winter with their daughter Mildred near Seattle. Jack Kessler told us he met Grant when he was in Washington last winter. Joe Miller's wife Freida (Mullet) used to be a member at Maranatha where I taught school for five years in Ohio. Frieda invited us home for dinner, but someone else beat her to it. Kudos to this church for their hospitality.

From Elizabeth Schrock from here we learned that Betsey (Mrs. Charlie) Kessler is a sister to Mary Sullivan, Ben's mother, who passed through here on their way west and home from Kentucky several years ago. I wrote a blog post about Ben here.

At the wedding we met Clarissa's former teacher Nelson Rudolph, who is a relative of the David Rudolph family from Greencastle, PA. I've known this family since I was in my early twenties. Nelson's wife was a Kessler.

Carolyn Schrock told me that Rose Nissley from here was her former teacher. Carolyn and Jeff's names were familiar because they were dear friends of Clarissa's family, and because of the tragedy in their family several years ago when all five of their children were instantly killed in an auto accident that also injured Jeff seriously enough to keep him from being able to attend his children's funeral.

Kathy Prettyman (Clarissa's mother) showed us the spot in the road where the accident happened. It was on a four-lane highway, and the driver of the other vehicle crossed the median from the northbound lane to hit the Schrock vehicle head on in the southbound lane. Jeff and Carolyn showed us their children's graves high on a hill near their church--five identical gravestones, each with a different name and birth date, but all with the same death date, in 2005, I believe. After a stop at the cemetery, they took us home for a delicious impromptu Sunday dinner. They also invited Tim and Joyce Eveleth, who added some offerings from their planned meal, and it was a perfectly delightful spread of food and time of fellowship.

Jeff and Carolyn have two preschool children, a son and daughter. This second family is as dear and bright as I'm sure their first family was. By all appearances, Jeff has recovered fully.

Among the Prettyman family friends, we met people whose last names were Larson, Markovic, Beckman, and Balhome. Many of these people had moved en masse from western Washington a number of years ago. They were mostly homeschoolers who were in search of a rural area in which to live, and they happened to choose the area where the Prettymans and a group of Mennonites also settled. For a time they were all together in first one Mennonite church, and then in another, but they eventually went their separate ways, and now are connected mostly by geography and shared memories. In some cases, there are still many shared values, but in others, the common values they once espoused must seem a very distant memory.

We really enjoyed learning to know Bob and Kathy's family. Besides Clarissa, there are four girls, and five boys. Clarissa is the fourth oldest, behind Garret, Austin, and Tara. Just younger than her are Colton, Angeleise, Jackson, Jed (Jedediah), Olie (Olivia), and Emma (Emmaline--long i). Emma just turned four and really misses her big sister, who moved very far away to Kansas. Garret, Austin, and Tara no longer live at home. Tara is married to Jon, and Garret plans to marry Marsela, who was born in Serbia. Austin and Colton attend college in the area. This is an intelligent, articulate, resourceful, and creative bunch.

Some time in the nineties, the Prettyman's bought a thickly wooded property and began to clear a driveway and building site. They used rough-cut lumber from the property to construct a no-frills house on a cement slab. The house is very comfortable, but is still being finished in stages. When they moved into it, it was a big improvement over living in a single-wide mobile home with seven children. Avoiding indebtedness is a high priority for them, and "making do" is preferable to living on a standard they can't afford. I admire them for this principled choice.

Kathy's dad was a contractor and designed the house, so it has good bones and forms an easy canvas for lots of creative ways to use the space. Instead of sleek, custom-made cabinets in the kitchen, they have a collection of cupboards and shelves and countertops and curtains like something you might see in a French Country kitchen. I'm sure that a lot of what they use everyday would qualify as antiques, but for them, it's just what they've found, fixed up, and made use of. It's a three bedroom house, with all the girls in one room and all the boys in another.

The slightly crowded sleeping conditions prompted the older boys to look for some creative alternatives. When Garret and Austin still lived at home, the family bought a garden-shed minibarn, and the boys finished it out as an office and bedroom. It's lined with very nicely done tongue and groove wood on the walls and peaked roof. The half that now serves as guest quarters has a hide-a-bed couch, refrigerator, microwave, and bottled water cooler/heater.

This is where Grant stayed when he was there last winter, and we stayed there over the time of the wedding. A really slick porta-potty was installed right next to the building. I didn't know they had special wedding models, but this one had a dispenser for papers to place on the toilet seat, a sink with running water (if you started it by stomping on the rubber bubble underneath it), paper towels, a mirror, a hand-sanitizer dispenser, and a solar light. The only improvement I could think of would be some kind of sound proofing. This must be a universal design flaw of porta-potties. No problem, of course, if they're placed in a clearing in the woods without other people around, as ours was.

Colton too has begun to build himself a "home" outside the family home. His is elevated, with the lower story mostly enclosed with timber. The ground floor serves as a shed for his bicycle and other outdoor gear. His "engineer brain" came in handy for designing and building this place. It's not finished out on the inside yet, and progress slowed considerably when he began to help regularly in the family business.

When Clarissa undertook building construction as an adolescent, it was for her rabbits. She took pity on them for having to live in such a small space, so she made a proper building for them by hauling small logs out of the woods and using them to build a shed. I saw pictures of the project while it was underway.

Elsewhere on the property, the men have constructed sheds and shops in a way that makes sense for the climate and the available resources. The workshop is a partial dugout. Another structure is constructed of poles from the woods, with huge tarps stretched over the framework to provide protection from the elements. With all the wind protection from the surrounding trees, this works better for them than it would for us.

Garret, who now works in landscape maintenance, provided the brains and the main force behind the landscaping that was done around the house. Rail fences and rock borders define the edges of the yard and flower beds, and Kathy has indulged her love of plants by filling them with things she loves or wants to experiment with. Pansies bloomed exuberantly--in August. An apple tree in the back yard hung full of large and beautiful green apples. The vegetable garden contains raised beds--the best way to make productive soil out of what is mostly decomposed granite underfoot. Deer and wild turkeys have done serious damage to the garden, and a fence is planned.

Amid all the busyness of getting ready for the wedding, and the necessity for Bob to get a lot of work done ahead of the wedding, we still had time for lots of good conversation with Bob and Kathy. On Sunday afternoon and evening, after the hullabaloo died down, we took a long drive with them, and ate dinner in a quiet place with no children around. Kathy and I sat in the back seat and talked a mile a minute. She and I are kindred spirits, with many shared interests. Clarissa had told me that her mother is quiet by nature, but I did not find her the slightest bit withdrawn. I think she often just doesn't need to talk a lot because Bob carries the ball in conversations when they're together.

We heard a lot about the part of their journey that involved Mennonites, although I'm sure there was a lot that was left unsaid. We're aware of some of the hurdles that non-ethnic Mennonites (or NABs, as Clarissa calls them--Non-Anabaptist Background) face, but conversation with them uncovered a layer of hurdles we had almost forgotten existed.

It's more clear to me than before that integration works best when there is considerable congregational autonomy, rather than strict adherence to uniform standards across many congregations. I also can see clearly that what Paul Y. told me a year ago makes sense. He said that in situations where Mennonites are called on to help form a congregation among non-ethnic Mennonites, he believes that Mennonites must "force" the locals to forge a structure that they can call their own, even when it would be far easier to hand them a package deal to help them get started. At the same time, he is aware of the importance of standing ready to assist, and help people move toward maturity in Christ.

Bob had a heart for reaching out to the people among whom he lived, and believed that plugging into an organized church structure would help facilitate such outreach. He also admired the hardworking, self-sufficient, and service lifestyle he saw among the Mennonites. He didn't anticipate some of the barriers that such a structure might introduce. Helping with community emergency services and medical care didn't work out, and supporting homeschoolers didn't either. The emphasis on group schooling, avoiding higher education and close working relationships with non-Christians were all "Mennonite" ideas that ran counter to his vision. He couldn't figure out either how to guide his children into vocations that were right for them, given the prohibitions he was taught. He couldn't understand why a black vehicle was better than a white one, remembering as he did, from his days running a car dealership, that black vehicles were "luxury" models, almost always worth at least $2,000 more than an identical white vehicle.

Although it was comforting to reflect on the fact that most of the barriers Bob's family encountered would not have been issues in our church, we are aware that people of diverse backgrounds always face challenges when they decide to share in brotherhood. Humility calls us to be alert to what may be present in our setting that makes integration difficult for people who join us.

It was especially good to feel oneness with Bob and Kathy in being able to pray for these children of ours who now share a common path into the future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Place

Eastern Washington was new territory for us. We arrived near midnight, so the surrounding mountains at first were only dim shadows against the starry sky, and the trees were visible mostly as points at the top of impossibly tall and straight trunks, with a shapeless mass between the top and the bare trunks.

In the daylight, the trees revealed slight variations on a green needled foliage theme. I was told there were firs, hemlocks, Bull pines, Pondarosa Pines, and Tamarack trees among the evergreens. Only a few broad-leaved trees were present--white-barked aspens and birch. I also saw one or two willows. Many broad-leaved trees thrived in home landscapes, even though they apparently aren't native to the area.

In cleared areas, we saw a lot of wheat, most of it uncut, and some of it still a bit green. Hay lay in thick windrows or in rectangular blocks where it had already been baled. South of Spokane, in the Palouse (a farmland region) where Bob and Kathy took us for a drive, and where Kathy's father used to farm, the sky and wheat were reminiscent of Kansas, except that the fields were much too wrinkled. I saw a combine laboring up one hill at a precarious angle, and my stomach tightened in sympathy for the driver of the combine.

Huckleberries, a local specialty, were past on the Prettyman property, but I'm told it was a good crop. This week they hope to head for higher elevations for more picking. The huckleberries weren't ready there earlier when they checked. Apparently they don't grow at all at lower elevations.

I saw Magpies and gray squirrels--neither of which are common here. Deer and wild turkeys are quite common, often posing a gardening challenge. Moose and bear also roam the woods, and coyotes are noisy at night.

The weather in Washington was "to die-for" pleasant. Bright dry warm still days in the 80's, and nights in the fifties or lower did wonders for restoring my heat/wind/drought-weary self. This kind of weather comes at a price for gardeners. Tomatoes weren't nearly ripe yet.

August is typically the driest month in Washington, and the trees along the gravel roads were covered by a layer of chalky dust. It was hard to think of it as being dry though because of all the green in the woods, and the bountiful crops in the fields.

Beautiful as the place was, the people we met were the most memorable feature of our trip. Telling about that will have to wait for another post.

A Western Wedding

I know now how to do a wedding with a Western theme. Do it because you don't want people to end up with clothes and other stuff they can't use afterward. Besides, you want things to be simple and unfussy. Especially you want it to be easy to plan and pull off. This is how:

Don't invite too many people.

Have everyone in the wedding party wear cowboy boots, even the bride who is wearing a beautiful, satiny, beaded gown (exception to western theme made here). Make the ladies' boots pink and brown to match the decorating colors.

Have the groom wear a plaid shirt and blue jeans.

Tell the groomsmen and the ushers they are to wear white shirts and blue jeans. Boots are optional for the ushers. Wrangler-type jeans are not required, which is a good thing because at least one of the ushers refuses to wear them--as a matter of principle, decided upon in his high school days when baggy jeans were cool. (That was always OK by me.)

Put a pair of cowboy boots on either side of the church aisle at the back. Arrange bouquets in the boots by inserting wheat stalks, pink flowers, and reddish twigs. Surround them with tulle and stretch it all the way up the aisle, tying it to the chairs so that no one tries to sneak in that way to be seated.

At the round tables where people are to be seated during the reception, spread out a pink bandana in the middle of the table. Put a square mirror on top of it. In the middle of the mirror, set a quart jar with an inch or two of small stones. Scatter dried pink mini-roses on top of the gravel. Stab a whole bouquet of wheat stalks into the pebbles. Put more mini roses around the base of the jar on the mirror. At the corners of the mirror, arrange small groupings of white or pink almond bark or chocolate shapes. Prepare these ahead of time by melting and pouring these substances into molds with the shape of cowboy hats, boots, or paisleys.

Play western or country music over the sound system.

Serve real food at the reception. Include homemade dinner rolls with homemade frozen strawberry jam.

Use a cupcake tower instead of a wedding cake. Use chocolate cream cheese frosting in two shades of brown. Swirl it in ropey circles on top of each cupcake. Decorate the cupcakes with pink flowers and green leaves. The cupcakes themselves are pink, as you discover when you bite into them. Your friend who works in a bakery does the cupcakes.

The guest register table and the table at the front of the church can be decorated with floral arrangements. No boots are required. Use Scabiosa seed heads for the brown touches in the arrangements. They're stunning with pinks and whites. Do this because your sister who works for a florist insists that there must be flowers. She makes the arrangements.

Put pink sand in one clear vase and brown/black sand in another. Place them on the table at the front. Have the bride and groom pour sand into a larger clear vase at the same time, in such a way that it creates layers of color in the larger vase.

Only the bride changes clothes when the newly married couple takes off for the honeymoon. The groom adds a cowboy hat, and they're all set.

Picture This

The Prettyman family (our new daughter-in-law's family) is taking their family pictures on the day of the wedding. Cousin Whitney is behind the camera. It's time to "cheese." So they cooperate and say "porta-potEEEEEEEEE." They're no doubt thinking fondly of the family business--Prettyman's Portables.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


The relief in the air is tangible. We've had some rain, and there's moderate weather in the forecast. For the first time in a long time, our county is no longer is in the "Excessive Heat Warning" area. Within the next week we have one day of predicted highs in the 80's and lows in the 60's. Tonight a thunderstorm in the county west of us looks like it's headed for Reno County. I’m beginning to hear thunder.

I loved how my brother-in-law Marvin Mast celebrated the arrival of rain at 3:00 AM on Sat. He got dressed and sat in the glider on the front porch and watched it rain. I think I would have been a bit freaked out by the fireworks, but I know very well the feeling of being so pleased and so amazed that you don't want to miss any of the event.

We had a small shower on Wednesday evening. I heard Shane tell someone yesterday that he walked outside during church to see for himself if what he thought he heard was really what was happening. He couched the report in religious terms: “I thought my worship experience would be enhanced if it were really raining,” he said–or something like that.

Yesterday at Farmer’s Market, with the rain fresh on people’s minds, and slightly cooler temperatures, the festive market air was back, and early in the day people walked with their heads up and smiles on their faces. True, Roman’s tomatoes sold out in the first ten minutes after the market opened, and no one had green beans because of ongoing problems with pollination for both of those crops, but Shane grilled link sausage and ham steaks for samples, and the aroma wafted over the crowd, and set salivation in motion, judging by the purchases that followed.

The best part of the day was being able to listen to Shalom, the men’s quartet made up of three men from our church (Lyle Stutzman, Willard Mast, and John Miller), plus Eldo Miller. They sang for the crowd, and wowed a lot of the listeners. “That is the most amazing harmony,” someone said. “Do they sing in other churches?” Hearing truth in the words and exulting in the beauty of how it was presented was enough to make my day. Trust me, not all the market music is like this.

Mark Rasette, who lines up the entertainment, came by, and I said, “You’re here in time to hear them.” (He’d expressed regret earlier at not having heard them at “Nine Lessons and Carols.”)

“Yeah, but now I’ve gotta pay them,” he said. I didn’t know any of these people got paid. He gave them $200.00. Not bad. It will help them with expenses for the CD they’re producing this week and next–Word of Life church, with a live audience–on the next two Tuesday evenings.

Saturday night’s rain varied, within a seven mile area, from one inch to two tenths of an inch. We had a half inch. It was enough to make some of those big weeds in the drive near the house let loose of their root moorings with a good yank on the top. It hasn’t been moist enough for that to happen for a long time. Redroot Pigweed is a survivor, and I always looked at those embarrassing weeds with a mixture of loathing and respect. With some cooler temperatures I may even have the oomph to tackle the weeds in the border by the road. As one lady at market told me, the stuff farthest from the house gets the least attention. There’s only so much water and so much time, and neither one reaches around for everything.


I heard several more “Woes with the Jobs Market” stories on Saturday. One woman told me her daughter got laid off three times in five months. When she applied at the local hospital recently for a job, she was one of 200 applicants. She didn’t get the job “and she’s college-educated,” Sandy told me.

Sheila told me about a friend of theirs, “Keith,” who got a piece of metal in his eye at work, which then got infected, and resulted in him needing a corneal transplant. He missed a lot of work, and his old employer wouldn’t hire him back because he had filed a workman’s compensation claim. He couldn’t find another job.

Meanwhile Sheila and her husband Dave had a serious talk about their own situation. Several years ago Dave got laid off after 30 years with the same company. The layoff circumstances seemed very unfair. He was essentially assigned blame for mistakes a long-gone previous employee had made. Dave found and reported the mistakes and set to work fixing them, but a lot of money in now worthless parts had already been invested. Because “somebody has to take responsibility” Dave got the axe.

After several months, their fortunes changed, and Dave got a better job than he had before. The good times were back. So they began to try to think how they could help other people who were less fortunate in their job situation. After considering making a large donation to local charities, they decided to focus their efforts on providing work for Keith. He had a grapple truck and other tools and skills to do salvage jobs. So they hired him to deal with all the old farm machinery on their place that had salvage value, and was no longer in use. A green dot of spray paint identified the salvage machinery. (“Our good baler was made in 1952. We wouldn’t want him to cut that up by mistake,” Sheila said.) Keith does all the work and gets the largest share of the salvage money. The good will, industriousness, and creativity in this situation is heartwarming.


This was Grant’s last Sunday at home before he gets married. He leaves for Washington early next Sunday, and, when he comes back, it will be with his wife Clare, and they will move into their own home–in our property on Trail West road. Hiromi and I are this close to being empty nesters. Sigh.

The house remodeling/redecorating project took a big leap forward on Tuesday evening when members of my extended family helped with various jobs. The kitchen still needs the most work, but Myron B. has been working on the countertops, and the end is in sight.

We’ve harvested lots of beets and melons from Grant and Clare’s garden. A 34-pound watermelon and a basketball-sized cantaloupe were some of last week’s yield. The big cantaloupe was delicious–from a volunteer plant of unknown parentage.


Craig and Rachel’s twin baby girls were in church today for the first time. They’re still very tiny, but doing well.


Julia S. is scheduled for a biopsy tomorrow on a tumor discovered on her liver. This is a matter of concern and prayer for all of us.


Uncle Edwin was in church today, brought by his daughter Valetta, who is here from Ohio. He has not attended since he became a resident at Mennonite Manor.


We had a bonus communion service today, in addition to our regular spring and fall communion services. This was an effort to accommodate the schedule of members who are routinely absent, or will be absent this year, for the duration of the school year. A lot of people were missing–gone on trips.


Dates for enrollment and work nights at school have been announced. School starts for the high school on August 26. The grade school starts the day before.


Fresh Pesto sauce is one of the good gifts of summer. I mixed up a batch last week and we all enjoyed it with angel hair pasta tossed with a mixture of stir-fried chicken chunks, zucchini, and onion. We spread the sauce on top at the table. This is the recipe I used:
1 ½ cups basil leaves
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (or sunflower seeds, which are a lot cheaper)
2 garlic cloves, grated or pressed or chopped finely
salt to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

Everything except the olive oil is chopped together in the food processor, and the olive oil is poured in while the processor is running. Refrigerate or freeze any unused portions.

This sauce is an almost-shocking green, and the flavor is distinctive–addictive, I think, but I don’t suppose my opinion is unanimous. I love Pesto sauce spread on toasted sturdy breads like French or Italian–or on pizza crust or bread sticks. Topped with a tomato slice . . . yum.


My parents just returned from having been in Iowa for a reunion of people who were married there in 1950. There have been losses between each reunion, and now, in the year of their 61st anniversaries, the reunions are likely soon coming to an end. One of their number was buried on Monday of this past week.


Jay and Verna (King) Miller are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary soon.


I don’t think we got any measurable rain tonight, despite about an hour of blustering thunder and blinding lightening. Right now radar shows that the activity is mostly several counties north of here. I don’t think they needed the rain nearly as much as we did. They’ve had an over-abundance most of the summer. Oh well. . . . Later: Flood warnings were posted several counties north of here. We had only a trace of rain.

At market I heard someone quote a friend who said, “I used to pray that it would rain on my farm. Now I pray that it would rain on anyone’s farm.” That farmer is clearly in the same straits as many here have been.

Hutchinson was listed recently in the Exceptional Drought category, which is the most severe of the five categories. I doubt that much has changed with the recent rains, since we are so far below normal that it will take a lot of rain to catch up. But the trend is looking hopeful, and we’re very grateful.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


I don't suppose it's normal to cry when you read the weather forecast. Maybe I should have stayed at Center to hear Julian's prayer on Sunday during share time right after he talked about the heat getting to him, and assuming it might be the same for others. Instead I went to Cedar Crest to hear Aaron Y. preach. He is a former student of mine, and I knew that listening to him would be a rare privilege, so I trundled around the section to our neighboring church--leaving and arriving during the share time. It was a very worthwhile sermon--on the Midsummer Times of Life--times of dryness and exhaustion and fruitlessness--and how to stay close to God during such times. The sermon felt hopeful, like finding an oasis in a desert. I think I need to hear the sermon again this morning.

The forecast for today says this: "Extreme heat will affect the region today with many locations hitting 110 degrees or higher. This is a very dangerous situation where heat related illnesses are likely, especially for folks that are outside for a prolonged period of time this afternoon." The predicted high is 112. Yesterday the prediction was 108 and the actual official high in Hutchinson was 110. Thermometers in our area, however, consistently register several degrees higher than Hutchinson, and yesterday was no exception. We've been told that today promises to have the highest temperatures of the season so far. The excessive heat warning we're under is in place till at least Thursday evening.

For the month of July, only the summer of 1980 had a higher average temperature: 90.4 to 89.3. 1954, 1934, and 1936 were the next hottest July's--in that order. The two months (1980 and 2011) were tied for the number of days over 100.

We're coping--just barely. One day without having to water would feel like a vacation, as would being able to look outside and see thriving vegetation, instead of vegetation in survival mode.

We noted on our way to and from church on Sunday that an irrigated corn field that looked good for the most part was topped in certain sections by a layer of leaves that looked whitish the first time I saw them several days earlier, and then looked tan-brown on Sunday. Other parts of the field didn't look like that. I suspect it had something to do with when the irrigation passed over the different areas. I don't know if it showed where it arrived too late, or if the water itself, combined with the heat, "cooked" the leaves.

I saw some of the same thing in our corn patch here at home. I also saw some of the first tassles looking puffy, dry, and dead. Tassles like that probably have no live pollen. Yesterday we set up the overhead sprinkler and turned it on over the corn patch, hoping to cool it down sufficiently to allow the pollen to stay alive long enough to do its job. We've been ditch watering the corn, which is an efficient way to deliver water to the roots, but it doesn't do much to cool the upper parts of the plant. With low humidity, the amount of water lost to irrigation by sprinkling seems wasteful, but evaporation is a cooling process, and when that's what we're after, we squeeze our eyes shut to the water wasting issue.

Right now the forecast for the week shows most of the icons with some chance for rain, with 20% being the highest number listed. Even though such predictions have hardly ever resulted in rain for us of late, it's better than seeing every icon either black or orange--for either nighttime or a hot daytime.

Please join us in prayer.