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How Are We Taught to Love?

Another Way for week of October 6, 2017

How Are We Taught to Love?

One of my newer favorite writers, Marianne Jantzi, posed this question in one of her “Connections” columns (a small Canadian women’s magazine): “What if we had never been taught to keep our homes and families near our hearts?”

Are we taught that, and how? Where does family love and devotion start? Perhaps more importantly, how do we nourish that in ourselves, our children? Is it natural, or learned?


Chad Churchman with his parents, Charles and Pat.

It was one of those “let’s-toss-normal-structure-aside-Sundays,” with chairs placed around tables and in small circles instead of traditional rows (we don’t have pews). The liturgy was pretty normal but when we got to the sermon, mostly we were led through discussion suggestions, with each person sharing from their own journey. We were to close our circles by praying for each other, anointing each other with a bit of oil, and then telling each other “God loves you and I love you.”

On that Sunday morning, one of the persons in my small circle was Chad, who I will always think of as a “young” man, about 11 years younger than me. Chad had suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident when he was truly young and daring, a freshman in college. After the accident he lay in a coma in critical care for weeks, but eventually regained the ability to walk, talk and function. He was, however, very much changed in personality, but he became a much loved member of our church community as he lived in a separate small cabin at his parents’ home. He eventually was able to hold a job as a landscaper at a local university, loved hiking and the outdoors, and took great joy in doing stonemasonry on the side. Then he had to quit his job about four years ago. Increasingly, he had difficulties talking, swallowing and sometimes walking.

The next Sunday morning after our “small circle” experiment in worship, we received the terrible and shocking news that Chad had died Saturday evening in a choking incident. His aging parents were not strong enough to do a Heimlich maneuver, although they tried valiantly to help him.

My mind went immediately back to the small group circle with Chad and the special anointing. The blessing we gave each other was so simple, yet profound: “God loves you, and I love you.” I will treasure that special service and memory of Chad as he now walks and lives freely in that other heavenly realm with our great and loving God.

Our pastor, Stephanie Sorge Wing, said she gives each of her small sons this blessing—God loves you, and I love you—each night as they go to bed. That is one way to help teach our families the love of God. It is also through the daily tasks requiring great patience, endurance and dedication that our families see love demonstrated (and which Chad’s parents—through many difficulties—possessed in spades).

This is how we teach children and each other what love is. Chad himself became a carrier of that love as his main greeting at church became a solidly gripped handshake or a sweet bear hug. He also reached out to help others however he could.


Another excellent Canadian writer (British Columbia), Gareth Brandt, writes in a devotional magazine Rejoice! about God’s great love. Brandt notes that, “God is often depicted as quite emotionally volatile in various Old Testament stories, but divine anger is always temporary, whereas God’s love is always steady and lasting, even eternal. … This love is … the basic message of the gospel we pass on to the next generation.”

Brandt closes with this beautiful reminder:

“When our daughter was lying in a coma: God is love. When we moved from rich familiar soil to windblown prairie: God is love. In the thick and thin of our marriage: God is love. Amid disunity and division: God is love. On special occasions and in ordinary life: God is love. Whatever you have experienced: God is love. Come what may: God is love.”


How do you see God’s love made visible around you? 

What prayer or reminder did you or do you say to your children or grandchildren when you put them to bed, or other special traditions?

What do you remember your parents or grandparents saying to you?

I’d love to see your comments below!



Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.



Eating locally, sharing globally

Another Way for week of September 30, 2017
Eating locally, sharing globally
I feel very fortunate to be still canning green beans here in late September. We had a bumper crop of pole beans this year and now we’ve been giving them away.
Here in Virginia, green beans are the staff of life. You thought bread was called that? Many of my husband’s relatives here grew up eating green beans every day, so canning summer’s bounty—if you were lucky enough—was a task lasting long into the fall. Until frost comes, if they bear that long.
We were elated to have some to pick and can when two of our grandsons were here earlier in September. I captured some of the memories in photos you can see here I also share there a photo of my daughters helping to can beans when they were small—and actually when one of them was still just a little bean herself—in the incubator if you get my drift.
We’re also enjoying the last of our corn plantings, and may still have some into October, if the weather holds. [Postscript: had some again last night, Oct. 2!] I remember when one daughter’s citified college friend asked how we got our corn to grow to different heights in the garden. We squelched smiles to explain that we planted multiple rows about 2-3 weeks apart to spread out our enjoyment over months, not weeks. I think he was somewhat taken aback that he had not been able to figure that out! Corn on the cob is also our staff of life from late July through late September, eating it almost every evening (if we are at home), unless we are between plantings.
Gardening—and preserving what you pick—looked like it was going to be a lost art but both activities have made a huge comeback over the last 10-20 years spurred on by farmers markets, roadside stands, eating “locally,” and the classic, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (published 2007). One friend of my oldest daughter cans jams and various salsa mixtures, and together they experimented with canning some apples, ready to pop into homemade pie crusts.
I was reminded recently of another “dying” art that I personally don’t care to ever revive, and one that my mother hated. I ran across this story from a reader of this column:
You mentioned in your column that you were raised around the Amish as a child. I was also raised in a neighborhood like that. It was my family and another family that was not Amish on our little country road. My summers were spent at the neighbors. I was in high school before I knew you could buy chicken from the grocery store. I thought everybody had a grandma who butchered chickens.
Even though my Mom hated it, I’m sure my grandmother did butcher chickens but she probably didn’t like it better than anyone else. I only remember one time my father decided to butcher some roosters. When we got new chicks, some boy chicks always slipped through and some grew up to be mean, pecking us, and loud. So Daddy chopped their heads off (was it revenge?) and mother went through the whole ordeal of scalding and picking off feathers, likely muttering the whole time. Today, why do all that when you can pick up a chicken at the market for mere dollars, right? Or buy a rotisserie chicken for $5 and not even have to roast or fry it? So we all choose our shortcuts and decide how far we’ll take this “eating local” thing.
Most of us in North America do not know what it means to be truly hungry, unless we have struggled with poverty. Having children and now grandchildren has made my heart soft when I see glimpses on the news, in magazines, or online, of children truly suffering with illness, starvation, and want. Reading books that tell some stories in depth touches my psyche. If we have been blessed not to suffer in this way, we also have many opportunities to share liberally with others, especially during this season. I’m thankful that’s one thing my parents gave me along with everything I needed: a heart for the hungry. One organization we try to give to every year is CROP, along with our local food pantry. Choose your charities carefully of course.
And remember to offer thanks to God, creator of all.
What is your favorite summertime produce, whether you grow it or buy it?
Do you have any canning or butchering stories to share?
How do you share from what you’ve been given to others?
What is your favorite way to help or donate?
One place we’ve been able to give our surplus produce is Our Community Place. Perhaps you have similar services in your town.
Send to Another Way Media, Box 363 , Singers Glen, Va. 22850 or
Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.

Mennonite Recipe for Banana Nut Bread

Banana Nut Bread

I feel truly doubly guilty whenever my bananas get too old to eat—or at least too old to enjoy eating. Barbara Kingsolver made me especially feel that way nine years ago in her prize-winning book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for buying bananas, knowing they had to be shipped from tropical zones and never would fit into the 100-mile diet (foods you grow or buy from within one hundred miles of you). But since she and her family gave themselves a free pass for coffee (also not available locally!) on their shopping list, I figure I could allow myself both coffee AND bananas.

I do like to keep bananas on hand not only because I love them, but because they make a great tummy buffer if you have to get up in the middle of the night and take aspirin or ibuprofen on an empty stomach. At one point I decided to try just eating half a banana in the middle of the night—and skip the medicine if my headache was just kind of iffy and weak. Eureka—I could get rid of a headache just by consuming the banana. (My father would say it was all in my head. Yeah.) So sometimes I end up with rotten bananas because I’m always saving them for the next potential middle of the night headachey feeling.

Back to banana bread. I wanted just a basic recipe, right? So I found it interesting that some of my favorite all purpose cookbooks where I expected to find it, didn’t have a recipe.

Now in one, I could quickly figure out why. First I checked Simply in Season, knowing it had an index listing things by the predominate fruit or vegetable in the recipe, since it features seasonably available foods.

Well duh, of course in North America, bananas—although they are available to us year round, are, as we’ve already discussed, hardly seasonable local fruits, so I’m sure the cookbook editors nixed any entries there.

But I was really surprised not to find it in Mennonite Country Style Recipes: The Prize Collection of a Shenandoah Valley Cook by almost-neighbor Esther Shank. Bananas are a basic food group recipe, right? Something you might have even learned to make long ago in Home Ec. Class? Nope.

Never fear, I found it in Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley collected by New York Times bestselling cookbook author Phyllis Pellman Good and her daughter Kate, submitted by Jennice Babkirk, right here in Harrisonburg. (Anyone know her?) And of course recipes abound on the web.

This recipe turned out great the very first time I made it. I have made banana bread previously but did not keep track of what recipe I used.

Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ½ cup mashed bananas (3-4 medium sized bananas)
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ cup chopped nuts


  1. Cream together sugar and margarine.
  2. Stir in eggs until well blended.
  3. Add bananas and water. Beat 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder, mixing just until moistened.
  5. Fold in nuts.
  6. Pour into loaf pan which has been greased only on the bottom.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Loosen sides of loaf from pan, then remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf.

My notes:

Rotting or not? My bananas looked pretty far gone and ugly, but inside they were still fairly firm, and definitely not rotting.

So while I use old bananas, those that have gotten to the stage where they are black and mushy—I’m not sure I would use those. Anyone else tried using literally rotten bananas? (You can always freeze black-turning bananas you haven’t gotten around to using.)

Remove from pan? I also did not take my bread out of the pan in five minutes. In fact, I took the bread to work in the baking pan, kept it that way with foil over the top, and it was still warm three hours later for our coffee break at work. I made slices right in the pan and they came out just fine.

Free, not-really-medical advice. And my medical tip to substitute banana for an aspirin in the middle of the night?? Completely free advice. You are very welcome. Or, even better, a slice of this bread with a hot drink or cold milk. Yum.


Where do you first look for recipes? Your own recipe box, online, a favorite cookbook? Which one?


Or, do you have an unconventional headache remedy?

I’d love to hear!

The Value of Education

Another Way for week of September 23, 2017

The Value of Education

School’s been back in session for most children for over a month now, and families and teachers are settling into the fall routine. Most of us had some excellent, favorite teachers as we went through school (thinking here particularly of elementary through

Typical valley classroom; photo by Melodie Davis

high school). My hat is off to all of those great teachers, and they are far the majority. Then there are those who because of lack of training or career suitability, or perhaps a personal crisis, fail their students and themselves. They usually also lack the ability to control a classroom—and thus have no way to really teach anything, other than how not to be a teacher.

My second grade teacher was that kind of teacher. I hadn’t thought about her in years. But a description of a teacher in a book I am reading suddenly brought Mrs. S. vividly and sadly to my mind: “She begged for attention, but no one gave it to her. ‘Listen to me!’ she screamed. … her screams proved useless as she still was unable to gain the attention of a single child” 

Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography--The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

In the book by Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy (which I also mentioned briefly last week), beatings for misbehavior—or not wearing a uniform or not paying school fees—were common in that country and time. Mark’s very young and inexperienced teacher completely lost composure and began beating the small children in a chaotically crowded classroom. How horrible, and wrong.

School was at the time not compulsory, just as many children around the world today are living in countries or communities where either families can’t afford it, no school is available, or girls—especially—are not permitted to go. However, Mark’s mother worked very hard to not only get the proper paperwork for him completed, but to talk her son into the value of an education when other boys his age were already running wild, living on the streets (ages 7-8) all day. Her eloquent speech as written down many years later by her son went something like this:

“Though our lot isn’t any better today, an education will get you a decent job. If you can read and write you’ll be better off than those of us who can’t. Take my situation: I can’t find a job because I don’t have papers, and I can’t get papers because white people mainly want to register people who can read and write. But I want things to be different for you, child. I want you to go to school, because I believe that an education is the key you need to open up a new world and a new life for yourself. It is the only key that can do that, and only those who seek it earnestly and perseveringly will get anywhere in the white man’s world. Education will open doors where none seem to exist. It will make people talk to you, listen to you and help you; people who otherwise wouldn’t bother. It will make you soar, like a bird lifting up into the endless blue sky, and leave poverty, hunger and suffering behind. It’ll teach you to learn to embrace what’s good and shun what’s bad and evil. … That’s why I want you to go to school, child, so that education can do all that, and more, for you” (from Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa, by Mark Mathabane, Free Press, p. 138).

Here in North America, we take these things for granted, don’t we? A free education is available to all and in many cases, even the public schools have excellent programs, teachers and facilities. Shamefully, too often in our inner cities children experience the kind of second rate and failing classrooms young Mark experienced. But following his mother’s counsel, he graduated college and today has written numerous books after studying journalism and moving to the U.S. His book is reawakening in me an appreciation for the education I was given—both in classrooms and at home, through travel, my work, and learning to know different kinds of people. I also have new joy that our church was able to help start an academy for young children in the very township in South Africa where young Mark began his education.

If your children hate school or struggle or are in a questionable classroom situation, their education and future is worth your involvement. Not helicopter parents completing their homework, heaven forbid, but reminding kids that doors will certainly shut for those who drop out early or don’t understand how important true learning is. A thirst for knowledge begins at home. Education happens in and out of the classroom.


I’d love to hear your stories of great or bad teachers and how you or your family coped. Send to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850 or

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.

Every Boy Needs to Learn to Can Beans

Every Boy Needs to Learn to Can Beans

Last weekend we had some moments of pure gold with a niece getting married at some lovely Shenandoah Valley caverns near here,

The lodge at Melrose Caverns, an old restored lovely wedding venue.

picking pole beans and canning them with two of my grandsons here,

and my youngest daughter being ordained and installed as an elder at her Presbyterian church over in Maryland.

(We forgot to get pictures.)

Busy, yes. At some points I wasn’t sure where I was, but happy to have my feet planted wherever the action was.

Earlier in the summer I shared our struggles battling bean beatles, and how a new variety we tried had helped to stem the onslaught of the little pests. We also usually plant pole beans (my husband’s favorite) later in the summer—he planted those this year on July 5. They are a lot of work to string up the lines and the poles but my husband loves his pole beans, so in they went.

At any rate, decent rains helped bring on a bumper crop and they were ready for a second picking last Saturday. I went out as soon as there was enough daylight to find the beans, I began picking—and praising my husband for doing a great job of keeping a path clear through the middle of the two rows where we could walk.

Grape arbor of beans.

We picked beans hanging down like grapes in an arbor. They are dandy beans and if you pick them before they start to get old: not tough or stringy, but robust and flavorful.

Daughter Doreen and Henry get started snapping beans.

Henry was awake by the time I came in with some beans for my husband and the rest of the family to begin breaking. At 18 months, Henry is all into whatever his older brother or grown ups are doing (no baby toys for him anymore, no sirree).

My daughters helped him learn how to snap them—sometimes he was successful and other times just kind of bent them over and looked at us with his big brown eyes like “what am I doing wrong that I can’t break them so easily as you?” His older brother was still dozing and taking his sweet time getting up.


James, left, Henry, and daughter Michelle supervising.

Later, though, when we were ready to put the beans in cans, James was all into it. I used some of my regular size jars, since I knew we’d have small hands that could get those beans into those openings.

I showed James how I smacked the beans down further into the jar by slapping the jar on my palm which he thought was pretty cool. “This is fun!” he declared and I just hope he agrees with that assessment with he’s 14 instead of almost 4.

I had to dig out the photos of his mommy helping can beans when she was just a little older than him, going on 5.

Canning beans with Michelle, left, and Tanya when Doreen was just starting to grow inside a much younger me. 🙂

Don’t you think every kid needs to learn to know where their food comes from, and how to preserve it? My sister-in-law was happy to introduce her grandson, Mason, to the art earlier this summer as well.

Mason and his mammaw Barbara. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Davis Crider)

I will be happy to be done with canning beans soon, but what a treat to have all those little hands helping. These grandmas are treasuring these times and memories.

We hope these boys will love “their” beans next winter.


Do you remember any jobs that seemed like fun when you did them at Grandma or Grandpa’s house?


Esther H. Shank’s Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets: The Prize Collection of a Shenandoah Valley Cook including basic tips and instructions on canning and preserving foods are found in this very popular cookbook! Check it out. 

Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets

Our Skin: So Important

Another Way for week of September 9, 2017
Our Skin: So Important

Skin is perhaps the least appreciated bodily organ, but so important. In fact, we seldom think of skin as an actual organ, like the heart, or liver. But remove that outer layer of our bodies—and we fall apart.

As we get older, our skin becomes more and more fragile. I learned that lesson this summer. I was coming up our basement steps carrying something, I forget what, with my husband. I slipped, and my right middle finger, skin side, caught on the edge of a wooden step. The mishap almost took a whole patch of skin the size of half a nickel off the last section. Almost: the skin hung on, but only in a couple of places.

No splinters and not much pain, but a giant nuisance to keep from bleeding and then from infection.

Luckily a trip to the beach and it’s healing salt waters was coming up three weeks after the accident—just at the right time to finish healing my digit. Now you can barely see a scar and my finger print looks roughly the same. Amazing.

Speaking of beach, I remember the years when we soaked up all the sun we could—using baby oil as a medium with which to fry our skin.

How very stupid. Generations of us are now paying the price. Skin cancer—in the form of basal cell, or the more deadly melanoma, are popping up among baby boomers and even younger. But we did not know better; if much was said about skin cancer when I was a teen, I did not hear it, or it passed through my cranium in obeisance to the god of beautifully tanned skin.

My dermatologist—who I began going to because of a small basal skin cancer on my chest—has a brilliant poster that shows a piece of leather and then says something along these lines: “This is leather. How is leather made? By tanning skin. Get the picture?’SkinPoster

In her examining room another huge medical-teaching poster explained the steps in the healing of a wound.


  • a blood clot forms to help stop the bleeding, and usually dries to make a protective scab;
  • below the surface, inflammation and nearby blood vessels enlarge to deliver oxygen and nutrient-rich blood and “leukocytes” to clean the wound of dead tissue and bacteria;
  • rapid proliferation (or regeneration) and migration of new epithelial cells [lining that helps separate the inner parts of our body from the skin and outside environment] helps to replace the damaged area with new tissue and close the wound.

Of course, if a wound is deep enough, stitches or another substance—even crazy glue—helps hold skin together, generally resulting in less scarring.

When my finger got hurt, I toyed with the idea of going to the ER or a doctor but didn’t like the idea of stitches on the end of my finger. Indeed the healing happened pretty much on its own.

How cool is that. Just amazing, when you stop to think about it, as with most of the functions of our bodies.

Wikipedia says “In humans, skin is the largest organ of the integumentary system. The skin has up to seven layers of ectodermal tissue and guards the underlying muscles, bones, ligaments and internal organs.” Wikipedia further defines integumentary as “the organ system that protects the body from various kinds of damage, such as loss of water or abrasion from outside. [It] includes the skin and its appendages including hair, scales, feathers, hooves, and nails [when considering the whole mammal world].

How fearfully and wonderfully God made us all!

What have you learned about our wonderful skin–here or through your own experiences–or that of loved ones?
Other Comments? Make them right here or send to Thanks!
Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.

Queenie, The Irreplaceable Dog

Another Way for week of September 2, 2017
Queenie, The Irreplaceable Dog

Photo from author Winona Miller

Guest column by Winona Miller

Editor’s note: Winona Miller of Middlebury, Ind. sent this story in to Another Way when Melodie Davis asked for dog stories earlier this summer.
When we moved to the small farm where my husband was raised, we had three sons, ages four-and-a-half, three and two weeks old. My in-laws built a “grandpa house” on the other side of our driveway. Later we had two more sons.
One day sons Brian and Steve ran into each other riding their bikes out in the driveway. Steve had a broken femur (leg bone), so he ended up in the hospital in traction for a couple of weeks. After he was released the doctor put him in a body cast from the waist down to his foot on one leg, and down to his knee on the other leg, and sent him home.
One Sunday after church we were invited to our friend’s house for lunch. We had Steve on his lounge chair on the porch as the rest of the family played games in the yard. Out of nowhere, a little fox terrier puppy came and jumped up on Steve’s lap. Where did she come from? No one knew in the neighborhood. So we took her home with us. I think God sent her because the puppy was just what Steve needed. She proved to earn her keep. We named her Queenie.
When she got a little older, she would sleep out in the shed with our milk cows. If by chance one of our sons forgot to latch the milk stall gate, the cows would find their way to get to the grain bin to help themselves. But as far as Queenie was concerned, they were in trouble. She would come running to the outside of our bedroom window and bark, then run to the barn, and back to the house again, until we would go out to check on the situation. Sure enough, the cows were not where they were supposed to be.
Whenever we had to sell one of our cows, after the cow was loaded on the trailer, she would stand in the driveway and cry as the truck went down the road. One of her buddies had left her on that trailer.
On the road across from our house, there was a ditch. Muskrats and groundhogs set up homes out there. Every once in a while Queenie would capture one. She would bring it to our backdoor after it was dead and lay it on the ground for us to see, seeming to say, “What do you think of my prize catch?”
Our five sons were all busy in school sports, so we sold our cows. That was a very sad day for Queenie. Once again, she stood in the driveway and cried as the last of her barn buddies left her.
My husband and I both worked during the day while the boys were in school. So Queenie started hanging out more across our driveway at my in-laws at the grandpa house. Whenever Grandpa Milo went away in his horse and buggy, she would lay out by the driveway and wait for him to return. If she would happen to take a snooze while waiting, the clop of the horse’s hooves would wake her. She recognized Brenda’s steady clopping. She would happily greet them running beside the buggy and after they stopped, her whole body would wiggle all over until Grandpa climbed out and greeted Queenie.
Then one day Grandpa got hurt and he needed surgery on his injured leg. He was in the hospital for several days. When he came home and was nestled in his rocker, he finally said, “Why don’t you let Queenie in the house for a bit.” She was so excited to come in she ran right over beside Grandpa’s chair and sat there. It seemed like she was smiling from ear to ear saying, “I missed you so much.”
Sadly, the next night all of a sudden Grandpa couldn’t breathe so we called 911 and they took him to the ER. As they went down the road, Queenie once again cried. Sadly Grandpa passed away later that night. She must have known her friend was not coming back.
If she saw a squirrel in the pasture she would chase it back towards the woods. More than once she would catch them. One day when we were cleaning an old wire corn crib that had a cement slab for its base, we didn’t know it but mice had built a wonderful tunnel network under the slab. Too bad for the mice: Queenie had a heyday. Mice scurried every which way not knowing where to go. Queenie and our sons had a great time.
We had Queenie with us until the ripe old age of about 15. Then one day we couldn’t find her anywhere. So finally I went across the road and peered down in the ditch. Oh no! There she was lying face down in the water. We think she went to get a drink and lost her balance. She wasn’t very steady on her feet anymore.
We never got another dog again for she would have been too hard to replace. So that was our sad day when it was her turn to leave us.
I’m happy to hear more of your dog stories here! Share in the comment space. 

Or, send to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850 or

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

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