For young children, a long-awaited event ‘never comes’. But it did, and it happened.
Our two trips were stacked back to back. My Dad’s family planned to be gathered for a Raber reunion from Friday night through Sunday noon. On Monday, plans were to board a 55-passenger bus with Daniel’s family to travel another seven hours to Pennsylvania. At first, I wasn’t sure about it, yet it was too good not to give it a try and join in; besides, even though the children lost their daddy, I still want them to stay connected to his side of the family forever.
The two Raber uncles in charge of planning the bi-annual event had it all down pat weeks before. Each of the Raber siblings and their family, including married children, were designated a job such as planning and serving a meal.
This year the event was held in Brinkhaven, Ohio, right next to an Amish community that owned the facility with a large pavilion, a kitchen and dining area, and several cabins sprinkled throughout the premises. Most cousins pitched tents while the aunts and uncles occupied the cabins.
The weekend passed swiftly, filled with memories of bygone years, volleyball and softball games, good food, and fellowship. On Friday morning Uncle Leroy and his wife knocked on our cabin door holding a large box. What was found on the inside brought fresh tears. How precious — so painfully precious! He handed a soft blanket to each of the children with our family picture on it. Daddy stood in the center with his arm around me, with his familiar grin radiating his love to all.
Yes, in our church, we have some photos, though that varies from one Amish church to the next.
It was more than I could grasp as Leroy handed one to me. It was a soft fleece with numerous pictures of our family feeding giraffes at the zoo, of Daddy showing little Joshua to his siblings the first morning after his birth, that first day with the foster children, and so on. My favorite was the big one in the center with Daniel and I, together stirring chili soup over a fire in a huge iron kettle. Robin, a friend, and reader from Missouri, had gifted us. It was so much what we enjoyed doing: building a fire, then working together.
On Saturday afternoon, we had a little auction, consisting of items each family brought to be sold, with proceeds for my cousin Jonathan, who lost his wife 1 1/2 years ago from a gunshot. (To those of you who have been asking how he’s doing: life has been intense and not a simple process, yet he clung to the Lord, and He has been faithful. Also, a few weeks ago, he married a young lady who will no doubt bless his life in many ways.)
The auction proved a success, mixed with laughter and tears. I was so delighted with a ‘treasure’ I bought. My cousin and neighbor, Josh, used Daniel’s shop to make a gorgeous walnut frame. In the frame, he placed a clock with a serene scene of the sun setting over a lake; on it was printed one of my very favorite verses, “Be still and know that I am God.” Later, when I showed it to my mother-in-law, she noted that the setting sun is right between the 8 and 9, which is what time the accident occurred, then also what time he went to heaven that evening!
The Raber family is known for their fair share of quirks and laughter, yet throughout the weekend, there was also deep tenderness grieving the absence of my beloved.
On Sunday, we had special services as we sang several songs then Josh shared a devotional about resting in God. I was especially challenged when he asked, “What does resting really look like?” He stated that our children would come to see rest in the way it is lived out in their own homes. In my heart, I knew that God would give rest only to the level I welcome his complete will and work in my life and let go of myself no matter how much it hurts. In turn, blessings we never imagined flow directly from his throne of grace.
Okay, hang on for next week’s notes about the bus ride to Pennsylvania. In the meantime, try our Amish No-Fuss Lasagna similar to what was served on Sunday at noon for lunch! Amish No-Fuss Lasagna comes together quickly and is a crowd-pleaser!
No Fuss Lasagna
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 1/2 pounds hamburger, fried
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons oregano, optional
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, opt.
3 cups pizza sauce, divided
2 1/2 cups water
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Fry hamburger with seasonings, add 2 1/2 cups pizza sauce.
Next layer noodles and meat mixture alternately in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan, beginning and ending with 4 noodles.
Pour water over all, then spread with the remaining 1/2 cup pizza sauce. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours or until noodles are tender.
Mix cream cheese, milk, and onions together and spread on top. Sprinkle with cheese then return to oven until cheese is melted.
Note: One cup sour cream may be used to replace the milk and cream cheese.
Serves 8 to 12