Walks Down Halteman Road

 Written July of 2003

When I was in 3rd and 4th grade, I struggled with going to school.  I seemed to worry a lot—and Mom and Daddy became concerned about me.  I normally loved school but suddenly I didn’t want to go and couldn’t eat breakfast in the mornings.  I was scared to go to school, but also too embarrassed to tell Mom and Daddy why.  Actually, I was afraid someone might get sick in school.  But Mom and Daddy didn’t know why I was acting so strangely every morning and used to discuss—what are we going to do with Bev?

Well, Daddy came up with a solution.  One day when I came home from school, Mom told me that Daddy would be taking me for a walk each night before supper.  Daddy said, “She needs more fresh air.  A good walk will help her!”

I’ll never forget those walks down Halteman Road.  Daddy got a walking stick for both of us and when he pulled a weed and put it in his mouth, I did, too.  Daddy saw every pheasant, bird, squirrel, and rabbit and he pointed them out to me, but always teaching me about nature’s patterns.  We often discussed the various cloud formations in the sky, admiring the sunset, and predicting the next day’s weather.  Daddy had a love of nature and saw the beauty all around him.  He taught me to really see the world in minute detail and take none of it for granted.

That’s why it seemed fitting to read Psalm 19 today since Daddy saw the beauty of God all around him.  In his last few days, he referred to heaven quite a bit and was looking forward to seeing how the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands.

This was the introduction to the scripture, Psalm 19, at my dad’s memorial service, July 31, 2003.

Storms of Life






Written Summer of 2003

Where can I hide till this storm passes?
I see the pain veer up before me
I cower, pleading sympathy
but she breathes only my mistakes,
reverberates only my inadequacies,
and assaults evil in my motives.
Why such disdain?

I feel destined to meander aimlessly,
catching the harsh thunder,
pain immense
The shelter far away
beyond my reach…
talents wasted.

Heather and Miona

Written Spring of 2012

In 8th grade a new girl joined our class at Penn View.  Her name was Miona and she was originally from Korea but adopted by a Norristown family.  Miona was not Mennonite and through her Heather and I were exposed to a different world. 

For entertainment, we would go over to Miona’s house for a weekend, eat supper in her dining room with guests and watch her father with a huge turkey in front of him, serve each person their portion of food.  Through Miona I saw what it was like to have a library as a room and witnessed for myself how one of the books was hollowed out for jewels.  Her mother never wanted the light on in the dining room when unused because it made the silver in the china cabinet noticeable to passersby and opened themselves up to possible thievery along Burnside Ave.  Through Miona, I learned how to “case” a drug store with 3 underage girls, one watching the door and the register attendant, another putting the quarters in the machine, and the other quickly removing the pack of cigarettes.  Through Miona, I stayed up late swooning about cute guys and calling one on occasion, singing, “Blue, blue my world is blue….blue is my world  since you went away.” As I recall, there wasn’t much response on the other end of the line.

I started smoking that year and my kids laugh today about how I was the most rebellious when I was in junior high.  I can’t say I ever really enjoyed smoking, but in 1973 a lot of cool people smoked and I loved the look of having a cigarette between my fingers.  Like Clinton, I often didn’t inhale.  It hurt my lungs when I did.  I remember how after Miona, Heather and I “cased” the drug store, we split the pack of cigarettes, and at home, I hid them in a small red box, underneath Bible quiz cards.  I doubt I realized the irony of that. 

By 10th grade, Miona and Heather were out of my life. Miona went back to Norristown High School and Heather went to Souderton High School after a particularly fun summer when she met the love of her life. Heather and I were constant summertime buddies, riding bike to the Souderton pool and meeting guys in the park, but when I talked to my parents about transferring to Souderton in 10th grade, they were vehemently opposed.  So I lost touch with my “enlightened” friends and started becoming the best goody-too-shoes ever.

See also my 8th grade class picture at https://mymennonitememoir.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/forever-sins/  

Maze of Life


Written Spring of 2012

Mark 8:31-38

This reminds me of a time when my husband, Ken, and I lost each other.  We were on a weeklong anniversary celebration in England.  We had spent the whole day driving to Cambridge in haste for a 6 pm walking tour that met at the downtown tourist information center (TIC).  We were unfortunately running late (about 10 minutes) but hoping that perhaps we could catch up to the tour group anyway.  As we were running from the bus stop, we realized we didn’t have the cash that was required for the tour.  Wow, how did we not realize that before? So we split up. I ran on to the TIC while Ken said he would get some cash and catch up with me. I took up extra time trying to find the TIC.  Finally I found it.  It was closed with no tour in sight.  I waited. I waited. 

Suddenly I had a problem.  The center square was closing; people were leaving their produce stands and it was getting dark.  No sign of Ken.  No cell phone.  No way to get in touch with Ken.  What do I do?  I had no cash.  I kept walking around the same square hoping that Ken would soon arrive.  I walked down an alley in the dusk opposite two young guys…. Ok, now I was getting scared.  But what do I do?  Slowly I realized I had to do the only thing I could do.  Go get some cash from an ATM and take the bus back to our motel room.  I had to give up ever seeing Cambridge.  We were right there in Cambridge, but we weren’t together.  And the world looked suddenly hopeless. 

I got the cash.  As I rounded the corner for the bus stop I saw Ken waiting. He couldn’t find the TIC, so he went back to the last place we had been together. That was what had made sense to him. We learned a lot about each other that night, but mostly I realized that sometimes one has to give up everything to find the way back to each other. 

Being a follower isn’t as easy as it sounds.  We only find Jesus when we give up our hopes and dreams and put our lives in his hands, trusting that he will guide us through the maze of life.


Written July of 2003

We gathered together
not knowing this would be your last day
We sang songs heavenward
not realizing you were leaving us
But God saw fit to take you on a sultry
        Sunday morning in July
He counted the hairs on your head and
        knew in his merciful wisdom
        this was your time to go
Time to be released of a tired body that refused to receive air
Time to be released from financial responsibilities and obligations
Time to be released from earthly cares and concerns
And taken to brighter vistas
        to clearer, cleaner air that breathes easily
        to higher, more intricate mountain trails
        and to larger and more plentiful game

Good-bye, Daddy
You slipped away quietly, easily
       on a sultry day in July
but left us with your undying legacy
        your pride and determination
        your peace and nonresistance
        your boisterous laugh
        and unquenchable love of life
May your eternal life be just as richly blessed
May you enjoy your heavenly home
Well done, thou good and faithful servant

Ken’s Illness

Written Spring of 2009

In 2002, I was sitting in the oncology department at Grand View Hospital crying.  I was crying because my husband had suddenly been asked to go to the hospital after visiting our family doctor.  It was a scary trip to the hospital discussing what ifs but it was even scarier hearing an oncology specialist say that he believed Ken had Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that was, according to the doctor, curable.  I was in shock as I called my friend to alert the church prayer chain, I was in shock as I watched them wheel him out on a stretcher for tests, and I was in shock as I made my way to the cafeteria for a bite to eat.  That was one of the loneliest, saddest meals I have ever eaten.  I listened to the hub-bub all around me, the friendly chatter among nurses and among doctors and surgeons and in the middle of them I sat crying.  No one seemed to notice and if they did I looked down and tried to act unobtrusive. 

It was the beginning of June when the world had come alive with spring and the heat of summer was fast approaching.  My kids were in school yet, even Vanessa the youngest was in an all day kindergarten program.  How could I tell them their daddy was in the hospital?   

Thankfully, within a few days Ken’s parents arrived and after we got the kids off to school, we traveled together up to the hospital.  Then I had to hear their fears as well.  On the ride up, Ken’s mom admitted that a lot of his symptoms sounded like her dad (she whispered under her breath).  So I knew that was bad news and then asked if he was the one that had died of a brain tumor. She shook her head.  So many fears running rampant through our heads.  Ken’s dad just calmly sat in the back of the car, motionless, wordless. 

We visited with Ken but had to hold back our tears.  It was so hard to see him at the young age of 41 being captured by this mysterious illness.  I needed help and I knew it, so at lunch I suggested to Ken’s dad that we try to make Ken laugh somehow on our visits.  I told him I could tell Ken was picking up on our tension and that I knew we weren’t being very good company, but I needed help to laugh.  Well, Ken’s dad rose to the occasion and managed to lighten up the heaviness of that hospital room.  We laughed about Ken’s old little league experiences, seeing his old coach, and the well-wishes that were sent from his hometown in Kalona, Iowa. 

Soon Ken’s parents were gone and by that evening they had released Ken from the hospital with heavy doses of steroids and methotrexate.  The disease specialist from GV had visited him and felt like he had classic signs of dermatomyositis, a rare autoimmune disease that attacks a person’s muscles and skin. We felt relieved but we did not yet understand his prognosis.  It was going to be a long road to recovery. 

When Ken came home, he tried to do a few of his regular activities and before we knew it, he was back in the hospital again because he couldn’t swallow.  This time we went down to University of Pennsylvania and he was tested and probed.  He stayed there for another week and was given pureed foods that made him gag.  But the doctors were inches away from putting in a stomach tube so that he could take in nutrients.  He had failed the initial test in the Emergency Room when they gave him a drink of water and it came out his nose. His muscles looked fine, no evidence of damage, but they were too weak to make many of his organs function properly. 

Our two youngest children had gone with their grandparents back to Iowa, so we had only our oldest son, Patrick around at that time.  I remember on one occasion we made the trek down to Philadelphia on a Sunday and at about supper time, I went over to the adjoining McDonald’s to get food for Patrick.  He was 13 years old and found it difficult to sit still, so this occupied him.  But the smell of the McDonald’s french fries was almost more than Ken could bear when all they delivered to him were different colors of ugly, nondescript food.  He remembers this as one of his lowest times, smelling the food and not being able to eat it.  (Of course I may have sneaked him a few French fries.)  Soon Ken was released from the hospital and it was the three of us at home, watching movies late into the night and trying to see this undisclosed free time as a gift rather than a punishment.

He couldn’t even swallow his saliva and at night I would awaken to hear choking sounds.  I was to make sure he didn’t asphyxiate, or get any liquids in his lungs and the first sign would be a fever.  So I was on alert.  It was at times like these that I lay awake and cried out to God, setting my hand lightly on Ken’s shoulder and pleading with God for healing and a miracle.

But worse yet was seeing the doctor’s apprehension about the disease.  In the first few months when Ken continued to be in and out of the hospital, I remember a rheumatologist in Sellersville seeing Ken and then looking frantically through his medical books for answers.  When Ken walked out of the room,  the doctor repeated over and over while looking through his medical books, “He could die from this…he could die from this.” That was not reassuring to hear from a doctor and we soon switched to a rheumatologist connected with Abington Hospital who seemed more knowledgeable about Ken’s illness, and also more optimistic.  And Ken did improve.

Amazingly, day by day, Ken began improving and after 2 months was able to go back to work for short days. Sometimes it felt like 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, but gradually he gained more strength and endurance.  Sometimes the improvements were so slight, we didn’t even notice them.  But by the fall of 2007, when Ken caught himself partway through a fall, he acknowledged that yes, his illness had subsided. Of course, we often wonder if he will fall victim to dermatomyositis again, and if a person is ever completely healed of an autoimmune disease…

But for now, we live by faith, thankful for what has been restored.

This June marks the 10 year anniversary since his diagnosis in 2002. 

Mennonites Meet With President Roosevelt

Written Spring of 2010

I recently read again a book my father treasured, The Franconia Mennonites and War by Willard Hunsberger.  Many years before when I had looked at it, I had been sitting with my dad and he had pointed out men that I knew that had served at various Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps during WWII. Now, seven years after my dad’s death, I was looking at it again in a new way.  It was written in 1951 when the historical facts of World War II were still easily remembered and dedicated to John E. Lapp “who first conceived the idea of this volume.” Just as in 1951 “it is important that the rising generation be reminded of the faith of our fathers who were willing to leave home and country to maintain a good conscience.”

I didn’t realize the extent of the Mennonite church’s political involvement leading up to WW II, in 1937-1940. During that time, Mennonite church leaders wrote resolutions stating the Mennonite’s convictions regarding war and even met with President Roosevelt on more than one occasion.  Along with the Church of the Brethren and Society of Friends, the Mennonites continued to advocate a place of recognition for their young men that had a conscience against the “destruction of human life.” Orie Miller (pictured above on the National Service Board for Religious Objectors [NSBRO]), Harold S Bender, and E L. Harshbarger were just a few of the Mennonite leaders that worked tirelessly during this time period by traveling to Washington DC and presenting proposals that outlined the foreign relief, mental and medical health projects, and reforestry work that could be accomplished in CPS camps. But the actual 1940 presidential approval came only after the Mennonite Church agreed to finance the CPS camps and the men. 

In our Franconia Conference, a Peace Problems Committee of John E. Lapp, Jacob M. Moyer, and Jacob C. Clemens was formed.  “To aid in teaching nonresistance and to impress upon the people the urgency of the situation, the committee arranged for a Nonresistance Conference for September 3 and 4, 1939, which was held at Souderton Church.”  After President Roosevelt signed the Burke-Wadsworth Conscription Act,  making it law that all male residents between the ages of 21 and 35 register with their local draft board, this committee was on constant call, assisting registrants in filling out questionnaires, interviewing draft boards, and advising young men of draft age.  Many men from Franconia Conference benefited from the cordial relationship between the draft boards in Lansdale and Doylestown and the peace committee members, particularly John Lapp.  John helped many men navigate the unfamiliar world of Selective Service Law and draft board members that questioned their sincerity.  

These men had an immense support from their churches when they took that step of proclaiming their conscientious objection to war.

See http://civilianpublicservice.org/ for more information.

Spiritual Battles

Written Winter of 2003

Life seems so hard
behind each bend lies a torn curtain of pain
hope crumbles within
disappointment, renewed defeat emerges
Where do I turn for hope?
God feels too distant, caught behind
           critical spiritual leaders
           that only see my faults
Where is God? Does he still hear my cry,
harken his ear to my heartfelt prayers?

The disappointment starts as a kernel
         just a smidgeon
As night comes, it grows and peaks
        through the undergrowth
When all is quiet the sad loss of hope
        rests and cries in anguish
It enjoys the lack of light and revels
        in its lawlessness.
It beats its occupant, causing all
        body function to long for the light
But darkness continues,
        submerging the sane.

Life seems so hard
If only I could feel his holy presence,
       clasp his princely peace,
       and retain his loving embrace
Release me from mortal priests,
Fill me with the Divine.

To Be Mennonite

Written Spring of 2003
As found in my journal

They called you “yellow” and “coward”
despite your husband serving in Grottoes, Va,
far away from the growing child within you.

They didn’t understand your 
service to mankind as you
put out fires in Luray, Va, studied effects on quail,
ate sliders and grinders, and made
lifetime friends.

Mom and Dad—you represented
the Mennonite faith.
You began your life together
during hard times,
times of war and Civilian Public Service,
times of children born to parted parents, children
unacqainted with your difficult,
life-changing decisions.

At age 13, I cryingly explained to you
why I couldn’t wear a covering,
and at age 19,
why I questioned the words of Apostle Paul,
why I believed women should be allowed to speak in public.

And you patiently waited, waited for the
Mennonite in me to emerge, tested by 
the trials of life,
hoping I could withstand
the temptations of materialism and 
overzealous plaintiffs
to recover

Getting to Know Our Neighbors

Written Winter of 2012

Essie lived next door to us and was similar to Mrs. Dubose in To Kill a Mockingbird in that she faithfully yelled at my brothers when they played football on the open lot between our properties.  She seemed to be constantly grouchy yet she had her own special flair.  She was an elegantly slim woman in her 70’s who never made a public appearance without finely tailored clothes and bright red lipstick.  Her hair was plentiful and my dad claimed it was a wig, but regardless of its authenticity, it was dark black with her eyes lined to match.  She must have appeared very worldly to this little, protected Mennonite girl in the 1960s, but I admired her from afar. She was scary and more than intimidating to me. 

Essie had rumors circulated about her. She was a bit scandalous even in the 60’s and 70’s in that she was living with two men, one her husband that had been injured in the Battle of the Bulge whom she waited on hand and foot, and the other, a kind-hearted, broad-shouldered gentleman named George that provided constant companionship.  By any stretch of the imagination, Essie and George were people from a different walk of life, yet my parents were quick to assent to a visit when Essie inclined an offer.  On these visits Essie was most engaging and talked incessantly about her husband’s brave encounters in WWII. After the visit, my mom seemed bothered, not that my dad had taken the glass of wine offered, but that he had taken a second.  My mom invited them to our house for a meal on occasion also, but of course Essie was quick to return to her bed-ridden husband. 

She kept her house and property meticulous and we tried to measure up.  Steve and I always tried to tow the line, but inevitably, especially when our neighbor Jimmy was around, we saw the dreaded back door open, then the big black hair and the slender legs, then the tedious walk to where we were caught  motionless, followed by the unforgiving finger wag.  It could be relied upon every time we stepped out onto that open lot. It was not her land, but she patrolled it with a legalism that only she could muster.  She usually didn’t see me as I was sitting off to the side watching the neighborhood boys play.  I was glad she never saw me, but when I got a bit older and joined in on occasion, she usually added a lilt to her voice at the sight of a girl.

Robert Frost uses a quote in his “Mending Wall” poem of a neighbor that says “Good fences make good neighbors.”  I don’t abide by that.  I believe it’s good to get to know our neighbors as well as they allow us to and to be on hand when they are in need.  Sure they may be kind of grouchy and unapproachable at times, but I’ve found that generally, a plate of warm muffins on a Saturday morning has a way of removing the “grouchies.” I hope Frost would agree… I know Atticus Finch would. -BBM