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“I suppose you think that is odd.” We were part of a small family group touring the Canadian ship.The naval officer had just told us he was the one responsible for releasing torpedoes. He knew our family background includes a strong pacifist stance.

I had not given any thought to possible discussions of values before we started the tour. We had simply accepted the invitation, and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about our country, about a naval ship, and about the man and his family. My response was as much a surprise to me as it may have been to the officer.

“I’d rather have someone like you, a man of faith and integrity, in that position, than someone who has no regard for God.”

Perhaps he would have been just as surprised to find out my extended family actually includes both army and air force veterans.

Abe “Hap” Heppner, Henry “Happy” Heppner, Andrew Lagimodiere, Raymond Lagimodiere, Peter Klassen, and Svend Jensen (listed in order of age) served with the Canadian military, while John C. Klassen served as a CO. Now, I wish I would have been more thoughtful, inviting my aunts and uncles to tell of their experiences.

I’m grateful some of them left memoirs and other writing, like the Alternative Service Memoirs Uncle John and Jake Krueger compiled and published.

This knowledge came to me gradually. Some awareness was generated because of the extensive collection of beautiful china and glassware gifts my uncles had brought their mother when they came home either on leave or after World War II. The old glass display cabinet was crowded with a fascinating jumble of pieces, off limits to little fingers.

There were also other European gifts, stashed away in other mysterious cabinets, like the authentic Dutch “klompen” I was allowed to wear occasionally.

Was military involvement ever a hot discussion topic? It may have been; my maternal grandfather loved an animated debate! While I recall some lively talk around the table after a hearty meal of old-fashioned smoked ham and “Pluma Moos” (a fruit compote) or cabbage borscht and buns, I can’t recall any anger. The men discussed, the women chatted and laughed, and we kids were largely ignored, so we were free to listen in, to run about or to play wherever we found space.

I do recall that my grandparents welcomed all my aunts and uncles and were happy for their visits. Not only were there former military people in the family mix, but the blend of Indigenous, Scottish, French-Canadian, Scandinavian and Mennonite sap in our family tree blended so that I learned about these backgrounds just as casually as I did about the various career backgrounds.

This was my mother’s family; Dad’s family mix was a little different, but there, one uncle served in the military and one, the middle son, prepared and published an all-Scripture catechism for conscientious objectors who chose to use it when they made their court appeal, seeking approval for exemption from active combat.

My “Mennonite” background is not completely steeped in pacifism. I gained valuable lessons from my grandparents, my parents and my aunts and uncles for they modeled mutual appreciation and respect even though differences* existed.

If only we could see more of that today. Who could have foreseen there’d be so much animosity and even violence because of differences of opinion?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect,

whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,

if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. (Remember?)

…And the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:8, 9b (NET)

 *There were other trivial matters of opinion that caused hurt, but those are of no consequence here.


Perfectly recorded

By the time we were in fourth grade, my classmates and I thought we’d really arrived on the academic scene. Best of all, we were allowed to use real fountain pens!  At the start of the school, new copy books (Ok, we called them scribblers back then, but I liked the new name better!) awaited. All those clean, white pages, with faint blue lines to help us keep our writing on track, just begged for my neatest writing.

From first grade on, Daddy expected me to practice penmanship after school. After I printed neatly, lessons progressed to cursive writing. At first, I resisted, but soon I realized it was almost like drawing and that it was fun to make the words float across the lines.

So, I began the school year with grand visions of keeping my copybook neat. But mistakes had a nasty way of leaking onto my paper. Sometimes I missed a letter and had to rewrite the word. Ink can’t be erased! Like my fellow students, I experimented with laundry bleach instead of the “ink eradicator” that was available in the stores. (Already we’d learned mistakes were costly, but the homemade version of eradicator was cheaper than buying the official poduct.) The whole process was messy, and I couldn’t truly eradicate my mistakes.

Did I learn or inherit some of Daddy’s perfectionist tendencies? 

A crossed-out word just didn’t belong in my “scribbler.”

I knew of only one solution: Recopy.

I tore out all the pages with writing, and painstakingly recopied my work, concentrating fiercely to make sure I’d write neatly and not make the same mistake again. So much writing used a lot of ink. Although my pen used little plastic cartridges, I’d learned to refill the malleable plastic tubes. I think I used some sort of a syringe. Spills were inevitable. More messes resulted. Sometimes I’d overfill the cartridge and incriminating dark blue splatters mocked my intentions. So, with wrong words and leaky pens conspiring against me, my intentions of keeping a scribbler neat meant mine truly was a copy book.

I simply could not keep up recopying all the pages every time I made a mistake, even though I tried so hard not to mar my book. I repeated the tear-and-rewrite process until I had to concede defeat.

Years have passed since that exercise in futility. I’ve learned nothing I can do will ever be perfect but I still like to practice my handwriting. Cradling a nicely weighted pen and feeling the pen point slide across a clean piece of paper gives me new pleasure each time I do it! And yes, I still enjoy using a fountain pen, but only for special writing projects. No matter how much I practice, though, none of my writings can compare to the one book that is kept perfectly. It’s the book of life, and my name is there, without mistakes or blots.

I “rejoice, that (my name is) written in heaven.” Luke 10:20c ASV. It cost my Saviour His blood to blot out my sins, and there my name is recorded as perfectly as only God can do it.

I look forward to seeing the beautiful way God records the names of all His children!


The emptiness weighs heavily. How can nothing have such an intense impact on me? Like the grief that sneaks up to remind us of a loved one who has died, my intense longing for something I’ve never experienced still catches me by surprise. It doesn’t happen as often anymore. I’ve learned the hopes first experienced as a young child are no longer realistic. I wanted a brother a baby brother or an older brother. At first I didn’t think of having a sister but now I be happy for either or both!

Each year, when others mark Sibling Day with photos and verbal tributes, the ache awakens. I don’t have anyone with whom to share my childhood memories of home. I’m glad for those who have siblings, even if they think their relationships aren’t perfect. It just feels that strange all I have is the knowledge my parents had a stillborn child the year before I was born. Badly weathered, the baby’s grave marker has almost lost its message.

Carol Klassen

July 14, 1950

She didn’t take even one breath.

Daddy promised he’d look for my brother at the local Robinson’s Department Store. Each time though, he came home from the store without my baby brother. Some might think my dad was unwise; I don’t. It was his way of letting me know he cared about my longings, and in, a way, it also seems he was trying to deal with his own. I’m sure my incessant begging was tough on Mom and Dad. They didn’t scold me. They didn’t shut me up. They never let on my longings stirred their own. It was only when I was older that I understood they too had longed for another child.

They had so much love to give. I wonder what it would have been like for another child, maybe even more children, to share that love. What kinds of stories could we tell? We’d complain how hard it was to beat Daddy in a game of checkers and about Mom’s painting the old zinc bathtub with ordinary housepaint. We might confess we heard the comforting sound of our parents kissing good-night. It was I’m sure we’d laugh about some of Daddy’s quirky sayings. “I like any hair colour, as long as it’s red,” became significant years later.

Lonely – but always loved!

Closely related to my sister’s death is another void. While my mom was still in a fog of pain and grief after trying to deliver a full-term dead baby, the attending doctor offered my parents the chance to adopt a child born at the same time. That little girl’s mother was single, a nurse.

After Daddy and an older man had looked after burying Carol, my parents talked about the possibility of adoption. It was hard for them to move from grief to hope so quickly, but they agreed they would welcome the baby as their own. They informed the doctor of their decision to adopt the next time he came in.

You can’t have it. I’ve changed my mind. It wouldn’t be wise for the child to grow up so close to the birth mother.

Hope sank again.

Did that doctor have any idea how much grief he added to my parent’s already heavy hearts?

My mom was in her late 70s when I realized I needed to broach the subject again. I wanted her to know I cared about her pain, but I wanted more information, too. She didn’t hesitate when I asked.

Is there anything else you remember about the baby you tried to adopt?

The baby had red hair.

Mom! Is that why Daddy always said red was his favourite hair colour?

You know, you’re probably right. I never thought of it that way.

Once again, we saw how Daddy found a way to express his longings without complaining, without casting blame. More than 35 years after the loss that affected all three of us, my mom and I drew closer to each other as we talked about Carol.  

Small family – celebrating my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary

Even with further information it took me a long time to realize there is more to the story.

Did her birth mother keep her baby after all or was she adopted? Did that little girl have siblings?

Somewhere, a red-haired woman, my “almost sister” may have questions, too. I didn’t have the siblings I wanted, but I had love. I pray she did, too.

Sweet Celebration

Every time I think of Paska, I think of the first time I saw it, and I remember the tiny older neighbour lady who brought it to our house. It was many years later I was able to enjoy it regularly. I can’t recall my mother ever baking Paska, but after I married, that changed. My husband’s mother started her own tradition. She used a mixed peel-studded sweet dough and shaped buns into figure 8s. White icing captured coloured sprinkles atop these buns Mom called Paska. As the family circle grew to include more in-laws, different varieties of Paska appeared at our Easter celebrations. Eventually, I ventured to bake Paska, too. It tasted fine when it was fresh, but after just a few days, my Easter bread was dry. I became discouraged. It was better to enjoy others’ baking than to perpetuate discouragement.

Enter social media. I read a friend’s comments about her daughter’s Paska. She stated this one stayed moist and tasty for several days! That prompted me to contact the younger baker, and I learned she used Lovella’s Paska recipe. An Internet search provided me with Lovella’s Paska recipe, and I’ve been using it ever since. There’s something about the fresh citrus flavour that seems to speak of the new life represented by the risen bread. Lovella Schellenberg is one of the authors of “Mennonite Girls Can Cook.”

I didn’t think more about the source of the recipe until I submitted my story to the editorial committee working on Easter Stories and More.

“Please provide the recipe and a photo to accompany your story.”

I was skeptical. Concerned about copyright laws, I doubted I’d be able to obtain permission to have the recipe reprinted. However, one of the other authors, Betty Reimer lives here in Manitoba, and I discovered we have a mutual friend. One contact led to another and I was able to write to Lovella. She graciously consented to my submitting the recipe, asking only that I rewrite the method in my own words. I also learned she shares this recipe with others, too, seeing it as a gift. In doing so, she honours her husband’s grandmother, Agatha, who passed the recipe on to her family.

Thank you, Lovella, for your kindness. I understand the joy of sharing recipes. Even more significant is that we can share the joy of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. Is there anything sweeter than the relief we know when we experience forgiveness? Is there anything more glorious than celebrating Christ’s resurrection?

This good news is shareable! 

I am honoured to have my story included with the offerings of many fine writers, and I trust all who read Easter Stories and More will see God’s grace in a new way. May our words be pleasing to Him!

I’m thankful many of my writer friends and I could participate in this book project. Please visit these websites to read more from the contributors to Easter Stories and More.

March 24 – Ruth L. Snyder

March 25 – Sally Meadows

March 26 – Eunice Matchett

March 27 – Lynn Dove

March 28 – Pat Gerbrandt

March 29 – Denise Ford

March 30 – Marcia Laycock

March 31 – Bob Jones

April 1 – Valerie Ronald

April 2 – Kimberley Payne

April 3 – Marnie Pohlmann

April 4 – Lynn Simpson

I will soon have a limited number of books available for pickup. Please contact me (204) 371-5183 or via email, to order your copy. I also have copies of the prequel, Christmas Stories and More.

I’ll take a cup…

Hot strong coffee was a staple at family gatherings. Some people preferred to stir in thick farm cream. Often it was splashed into the saucer so it could be drunk without danger of a scalded mouth (for how is it possible to “spatzea” (visit) when one’s mouth is sore?  I remember well sitting at Grandpa and Grandma’s dining room table, the one we now use at our house, getting my first taste of coffee from a saucer.

It wasn’t until I moved into a dormitory and took my meals with my fellow students at Bible school that I had personal experience with coffee kettles. We all had to take turns serving our fellow students. Those large kettles are heavy when they are full! One day I switched my large kettle for a slightly smaller one. I explained the heavy pot hurt my wrists. A snort of derision and a cryptic denunciation of my weakling status hurtled my way. I guess I didn’t fit Cook’s idea of a good Mennonite girl. I had no fondness for the kettles I carried.

About six or seven years later, married by then, my husband and I began to explore the country acreage that was our new home. The property was half a mile deep, but narrow. A trail angled from one corner at the roadside to the other corner at the back of the property. There we found what turned out to be a garbage heap. As we poked around a bit, we found various household items, including a like-new pastry blender. That, and these two kettles came back to the house. Only one of them had a lid, but that didn’t matter. I cleaned them and spray painted them. 

It’s more than 40 years since these pots were repurposed. They moved with us when we left that narrow lot for a building site, and again when we left the country for a smaller place in town.

Now they contain another memory. Even when my family had hardly any money for the basics of life, my mom planted her beloved begonias in the bare dirt behind our rental house. I’m sure she had brought the tubers from the garden at our previous house (also a rental). The vibrant red flowers looked magnificent against the darkly weathered bare boards of the two-storey house. Springtime is not too far away. Nights, and some days, too are still chilly in March but I choose to focus on what is to come. Seedtime and harvest will continue as long as God deems we need them. So, I’ll plant flowers in these pots again, Lord willing, to bring cheer, to remember my parents, and to remind me to forward to what God has in store for His children!

Mom and Dad both loved their coffee, too. Although they died many years ago, I often think of my parents as I sip my coffee while enjoying our backyard. These battered old kettles remind me one can serve up refreshing and beauty if one is willing to receive it first from God. I’ll take a cup. Will you?

It’s a thorny situation…

“It ain’t no bed of roses.” The only thing surprising about my aunt’s statement was that she confided in me. I was only a teen, and she had married my uncle before I was born.

“Maybe it is.”

Although I had no personal experience of marriage, I knew a bit about roses because my mom loved them. At one time, she had eighteen rose bushes in her modest yard.

I suggested to Aunt Rix the pain caused by thorns was offset by the beauty of the roses. I don’t know if Mom ever told me that, but I saw her devotion to the flowers. She didn’t complain about the occasional burning pain from the roses’ natural defense; she simply accepted it as part of the price of enjoying her beloved roses. She’d also been devoted to my dad, and their marriage wasn’t “a bed of roses” either, but she didn’t complain, ever.

Those who find Valentine’s Day difficult probably have reason for their reaction. I wish I could offer comfort, but the reality is, love is never without pain. People who have loved and lost know pain. Those who have lost a chance for love ache for what they miss.

If roses are a symbol of love, we need to remember they do have thorns.

Valentine’s Day is loved by those in love, but dreaded or even hated by those who feel they have no one to love or are not loved by anyone.

Perhaps we have too small a view of love. Love is more than an emotion. It is the language of Almighty God who chooses to reveal His purposes for us. We love because He first loved us.

What does He see? What do I see?

What are those horrid black lines doing on my photo? All I wanted was the trees!

Many years earlier, when we built a house on an undeveloped lot, I had to get
accustomed to having poplar, oak, and chokecherry trees on three sides of our yard.
The bush provided shelter from the north wind, yielded firewood enough to heat
our house for many years, and sheltered deer and birds. The birds made sure they got their share of wild saskatoon berries, and we enjoyed them, too. Although living “in the bush” had been a new experience for me, I learned to enjoy it and felt at home.

Then we moved from that rural acreage to a smaller lot in an urban community.
I wondered if I would miss the trees. As we settled into an older house, I began to make the acquaintance of our new tree neighbours. One morning I was a little disoriented when I awoke. How can there be trees on this side of the bedroom?  I had been so focused on unpacking I had not noticed the mirrored closet doors. I chuckled, thankful for the bonus view of birch and linden, and realized I would feel very much at home once again.


The kitchen window frames a different view. I can gaze at caragana shrubs, cedars, and the neighbours’ high hedges while I do dishes. A little further back, a massive evergreen stands sentinel at the corner of our property. I just don’t tire of seeing these trees, and sometimes I grab my camera, thinking I can capture their beauty. Then, when I look at the digital image, I’m dismayed by slashes of black, those unsightly cables intruding on the view.

The camera catches what is actually visible. It shows the beautiful and the unattractive. My appetite for beauty saw only the trees at first. I don’t want to let anything distort what God has made.

When I look at someone whose life is scarred, I try to look for the beauty God poured into that life. He sees His original plan for each of us. It helps to remember what God said when Samuel wanted to anoint a handsome kingly candidate. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

The cables will stay. I’ll keep looking up at the trees, and they’ll help me remember beauty is one of God’s gifts. Father, please show me the beauty of each human life.

Open the curtains!

It may still be dark out, but I open the curtains anyway. Daylight will come.

My mom had something to do with my habit. It began when I was a child. I doubt she gave any thought to my watching her, because she was on a mission. Of course, it wasn’t early morning when we visited her parents, but I can so clearly remember what happened every time we got to Grandpa and Grandma’s yellow stucco house. Mom put down whatever packages of food or mended clothing she had brought, and starting in the dining room, gave each tired old green window blind a good yank, sending it flying to the top of the frame. It was bad enough the heavy lace curtains still blurred any view of the out-of-doors, but she would have nothing to do with hiding in a darkened house.

I wonder now if my grandparents felt just a little too exposed living in that two-storey house in town. To the north were the railroad tracks and a huge orange grain elevator, so that was may have been their link to farming days. But, there were other people across the street on the east side and even more houses to the south, where the town stretched for blocks. Who knew how many strangers might come to peer in the windows?

Mom never ventured her ideas as to the reason for drawn blinds, but it must have been a deep-seated one, for the house was dark whenever my mom and I arrived. Mom never lost any time letting the sunshine brighten that old house. She raised the blinds as often as they’d been lowered!

Although watching Mom helped form my values, I have my own reasons for wanting the curtains open. Usually I wake about the same time, and in winter, the days are so short I have to wait a while before the eastern sky shows light. So why open the curtains? Because I want to see the light! 

As darkness fades and slight tinges of light appear, my anticipation wakens, too, and I wonder what the day may bode. Is this what the Psalmist and other writers of Holy Scripture felt?

Awake, my soul! Awake, O stringed instruments and harp! I will wake up at dawn! Psalm 57:8

I am up before dawn, crying for help. I find hope in your word.  Psalm 119:147

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

Because of our God’s tender mercy the dawn will break upon us from on high. Luke 1:78

The image of light is prevalent in God’s word, and that’s another reason having an unobstructed view is significant to me.

I open the curtains, settle in my chair, often with a hot beverage, and look to the the light in God’s word. I don’t want anything to obscure what He will shine into my life.

I wasn’t pushed…

I remember every detail of a card I received early in my teens. Since then, family and friends have sent many cards on various occasions, but that Valentine is the only one I remember so clearly. The front of the card showed a rabbit, sitting on a low stone wall, announcing, “I wasn’t pushed; didn’t need a shove…” Opening the pop-up card caused the rabbit to fall off the wall. The words inside, “…I just saw you and fell in love!” communicated to me a wonderful message. I doubt Daddy had read anything about a daughter’s need for affirmation from her father, but he gave me a hefty dose that day.

My dad, always eager to show his love but rarely able to afford gifts, had a knack of finding appropriate cards. It wasn’t easy for him to say the words, but he communicated his love as best he could. That was the only valentine I ever got from Daddy. Most of the time, he bought cards only for my mom.

Another Valentine’s Day approaches. My dad gave me that special greeting card at least fifty-five years ago. A dad’s love for his daughter is powerful. I am saddened to realize there are many women and girls, just as there are men and boys, who have not known tender, even if rarely expressed, love from their dads. Even the most loving dads can’t always fulfil their children’s needs.

There is only One who can love us perfectly, and His love is the most precious. God wasn’t pushed. Unlike the whimsical rabbit, He didn’t fall in love with us. His love is a deliberate choice.

God’s tender heart is expressed repeatedly throughout the Bible. Sometimes it’s tough love that comes through, but it is always for our good. His love is unending. It is passionate. Isaiah’s words to Israel (43:1c) ring clearly.  “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine” and a few verses further, he emphasizes, “…you are precious in my sight and honoured.” (Isaiah 43:4a) This love is powerful.

And, it is costly. Someone said, “I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’ He opened wide His arms as He died. ‘This much.’ “

The rabbit’s Valentine message means even more to me now than it did when Daddy gave it to me, but nothing compares to the love God lavishes on us.