The Lily in the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Hidden Lilies

The rake clears away fall leaves and winter twigs, leaving fresh white blossoms peeking out from under newly grown leaves.  It is spring, and I am surprised again when I discover Lily of the Valley blooming in my flower bed.

After all these years, you’d think I’d remember these flowers. Somehow I never do. By the time winter is over, another year has come and gone since these flowers last bloomed. In those twelve months, the flower bed has become encroached with piles of fallen leaves and broken twigs.  In those twelve months, I forget.

Until, that is, the rake peels back winter’s debris and uncovers what has been hidden – but blooming nevertheless – under forgotten dreck.  Underneath winter brambles and broken twigs, underneath worn, weary sod, there is hope, for there is life.

Blooming Again

Every spring when I clean my flower beds and find those petals, I remember. Every spring, when I unearth those flowers, I remember a scripture: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” [Song of Solomon 2:1].

And every spring, when I find the Lily of the Valley, I remember a song: I Found the Lily in My Valley.

The Song

There’s a story behind this song, and you can read it in its entirety here.

Quinton Mills, the author, is a Native American Indian and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe located in Hollister, NC.  He accepted the Lord Jesus Christ in 1972 after many years of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and rock music.  This gospel song was written on February 12, 1986 in Clinton, South Carolina.

After a service in which he preached, there was an altar call.  A lady came forward asking for prayer.  Another minister who was assisting Rev. Mills  told the lady, “Sister, I don’t care what kind of valley you’re going through; Jesus will be your Lily in that valley.”

Quinton Mills went back to where he was staying and felt the Lord nudge his spirit as thoughts flooded his mind. He prayed, “Lord, I know that you spoke to me tonight in a special way and I will not go to sleep until You give me what I felt so special.” In a couple of hours, he had written I Found the Lily in My Valley.

Lily of the valley 3

I Found the Lily in the Valley

By Quinton Mills

All alone and broken hearted, trying to calm the raging battle in my mind,

In search of many answers that my troubled soul just could not seem to find

I saw a flower blooming where there was no rain or sunshine,

And I  knew that this flower would change the rest of my life.


I found the lily in my valley, I found strength when I was worn;

I found a place to leave my burdens, I found refuge from the storm;

A place where I traded my dark skies for beaming rays of sunshine,

I found a Lily in my valley, and He blooms all the time.


So if you’re down and broken hearted and you just can’t seem to find peace of mind,

You’re searching for your answers, but your problems are getting worse all the time.

Just reach your hand to Jesus,

He’ll take you in and break the ties that bind.

He’ll be your Lily in your valley

And you can watch Him bloom all the time.


He’ll be your Lily in your valley;

He’ll be your strength when you are worn.

He’ll be a place to leave your burdens;

He’ll give you refuge from the storm.

A place where you trade your dark skies for beaming rays of sunshine,

He’ll be your Lily in your valley

And He’ll bloom all the time!

Lily of the valley 2

Listen to the song

To hear Quinton Mills sing this song, you can listen here or here. If the links do not work, you can listen to Brian Haney sing it here. And, as you listen, allow Him to be your Lily in whatever valley you are facing today.  Allow Him to be your refuge; allow His fragrance to permeate your soul.

Pinterest Lily in the Valley


A May Day Tribute – a Re-post

May Day

Today is May Day. In honor, I share this post again. 

Happy May Day!

A May Day tradition begins.

Drop a pebble in the water . . .

It is spring, and the month of May is awaiting its curtain call. In Appalachia, sisters are walking home from school, carrying their books. It is 1968, after all, and backpacks have not yet arrived on the school scene.

The sixth and seventh-grade siblings are talking about their day at school when the younger of the two shifts her books in her arms and exclaims, “Guess what Miss Schrock told us about in school today!”

Within a few minutes, she has shared with her class the history of May Day. She tells them about the tradition in European countries where children gather wild flowers, put them in baskets, and slip the baskets onto the doorknobs of neighbors. They ring the doorbell, then run and hide.

Miss Schrock’s rendition of this tradition leaves such an impact that her enthusiasm becomes contagious in the younger sister as she relays the story.

“We could do that!” the older sister responds.

     Just one splash, and it is gone . . .

The plan takes shape

Before they have completed their half-mile walk home down the dirt lane from the bus stop, they have formed a plan. That evening, they convince their oldest sister (who has a driver’s license) to take them to the woods along the Casselman River. There, in the woods and by the swamp along the banks of the river, they gather wild geraniums, dog tooth violets, wild phlox, tooth wort, ginseng, marsh marigolds, bluebells, jacks-in-the-pulpit, purple and white trilliums, and other flowers.


purple trillium
purple trillium

Before long, the flowers have been placed into paper cups and nourished with sugar water. After the sun has set, oldest sister drives them to their four-room school, where they ponder where to place their baskets. There is no handle on the doors where one can place the handles on their cups. So they put four baskets inside the door well of the basement entrance.

Future May Day plans

On the way home that evening from the first May basket delivery, the girls are making plans for next year – and the next – and the next. They have uncles, aunts, and elderly folks in the community who enjoy the beauty of nature but are no longer able to go to the woods. “We will bring the woods to them,” they say.

The excitement of the teachers upon finding the baskets when they arrive at school the next day as well as their attempt to find the culprits of this good deed validate the plan for future years. There is much discussion among the teachers, and students are asked if they know who brought the May baskets. The sisters don’t lie; they just shrug along with their classmates and don’t tell everything they know.



The school

 Yoder School and its teachers are unique. A public school in Maryland’s most western county, the school has been funded to provide a place for Amish and Mennonite children to receive an education. Built by parents from the ground up and funded by county monies, the school is open to any student within the county.

With four classrooms of 25-30 students each, younger students learn as older grades recite and study out loud. Older students who are caught up with school work get to help younger students practice and learn.

Grades one and two are taught by Alvina Livengood, who heads up the unofficial drama department and gives free piano during recess as well as before and after school. Each spring, Alvina’s students receive credit for bringing wild flowers to school for identification. Baby food jars covered with contact paper and labeled are lined on top of bookcases and students place their flowers in the correct jar.   ALVINA flowers 2

Third and fourth grades are taught by Ruth E. Yoder. Her class treks to the woods each year to identify birds and listen to their different calls. For many years, Ruth hikes with her students the one-half mile to her farm. Her class watches as she and her husband decapitate and butcher a chicken.

Teaching fifth and sixth grade, Miss Ada Schrock excels in literature, writing, poetry and reading instruction. Miss Schrock teaches the arts to the upper grades while Esther E. Yoder, principal and seventh to ninth grade teacher teaches science and math in grades four and up.

Each teacher knows each student in the school by name. This is not just a school; it is a community.

The May day secret is out

When a Jack-in-the-pulpit appears in the May baskets, it doesn’t take Alvina long to figure out who gets the credit. Timothy Miller is the only child in her classroom who has brought a Jack-in-the-pulpit to school. Alvina knows where this flower can be found, so she asks Timothy who was with him when he found his Jack-in-the-pulpit.


Timothy tells her that his Miller cousins took him with them to the woods the evening before. Not uncommon to these Miller cousins are the woods where many wild flowers have been picked to take to school each spring.

Before the day is over, Alvina waltzes into the upper-grade classroom, stops at the desk of one of the Miller girls and whispers, “I know who brought the baskets.” Then she turns and walks out of the room. To the girls’ dismay, the secret is out; however, a tradition has been born.

 But there’s a thousand little ripples . . .

More May day ripples

Who can guess how many years this tradition will continue? The following year, May baskets are delivered to many folks over a 15-mile radius. Initially, it is a family project. Year after year after year, their mama’s station wagon, used for delivering bread, is used on the evening of April 30 to gather wild flowers and then deliver some fifty-plus baskets to neighbors, relatives and acquaintances.

It is the one night of the year when a midnight bedtime is permitted on a school night. Left-over cookies at Christmas (yes)  are kept frozen until they are needed to befriend farm dogs while delivering baskets down long, dark lanes. Ideals magazines are scoured to find the best phrases and poetry for this occasion. Folded 3 x 5 index cards with the words Happy May Day! on the front hold a verse on the inside. Verses are chosen carefully with each recipient in mind. Initially handwritten, the verses are later typed on a Remington until computers make the task easier.

Ready for delivery: bluebells, marsh marigolds, and other flowers proclaim that spring is here!
Ready for delivery: bluebells, marsh marigolds, and other flowers proclaim that spring is here!

     Circling on and on and on . . .

Looking back

It has been 52 years since the day those sisters walked home from school, then decided to go to the woods and gather wild flowers for their teachers. Over the years, the assistance of others has been enlisted. Cousins, nieces, nephews, friends and youth groups have helped carry on the tradition.

Timmy and Benji Slabach help gather flowers
Timmy and Benji Slabach help gather flowers

     Spreading, spreading from the center . . .

Like a pebble skipped across the water, the ripples of tradition continue on and on across the years.

     Flowing on out to the sea . . .

Well over 2500 women, children (or men) have opened a kitchen door on May Day morning to find woodland flowers and the promise of spring.

     And there’s no way of telling where the end is going to be.

Former students or their children have delivered May Baskets to retired teachers who relocated to Indiana. Nate Yoder (later a professor at EMU) shared visits with Ruth E. Yoder when he brought May baskets to her. Elissa Riegsecker (daughter of Alice who lived in Indiana) delivered baskets to former teacher Ruth E. Yoder and teacher/principal Esther E. Yoder. Alvina Livengood and Ada Schrock, who live locally, received their 46th basket in 2013.

The Miller six

The People Behind the Tradition
The simple telling of this European tradition was the catalyst behind the May baskets. Ada Schrock shared it with her students on April 30, 1968. Miss Schrock’s enthusiasm was so infectious that Rachel Miller, the youngest of the Miller Six, shared the story with her sister Gertrude on another ordinary walk home from an ordinary day at school. Ida Marie drove the station wagon and took them to the woods that evening. The following year, all six of Fannie’s girls traipsed to the woods, bringing back buckets and tubs of wild flowers.

Traditionally, Ida Marie drove the station wagon while Loretta sat in the back, choosing each basket with the verse for the individual to whom it would be given. Each basket carefully received an extra dose of sugar water just before it delivery took place. Rhoda, Alice, Gertrude and Rachel were runners, usually going two at a time when there was a long lane with farm dogs. The dogs were fed stale Christmas cookies to be kept quiet. One girl delivered the basket while the other stood away from the house, petting and feeding cookies to friendly guard dogs. Sometimes two girls were dropped off at one farm lane while two others delivered baskets down the road on the next farm.

Passing it On
This spring, when you wonder if the little things you do make a difference, remember this story. If you know Ada Schrock, call her and thank her. She can no longer see, but she can hear. She will treasure your call. (The last four numbers of her phone are 2350.)

It is May, and we celebrate spring. Rivers, creeks, and brooks are filled from spring rains.

Go ahead. Toss your pebble in the water and watch the ripples spread out to the edges of the banks. You never know how far the ripples will go.

Go ahead and share a story or a tradition or a lesson learned. Toss your pebble – make that splash. The ripples will continue, long after you are gone.

Go ahead. This spring, celebrate life and who you are.

Begin a tradition.  Leave a legacy.

And a Happy May Day to you, too!

pinterest May Day

Note from the author:
Yoder School* was in operation from 1891-1989.
Ruth E. Yoder and Esther E. Yoder passed away several years ago.

Nate Yoder passed away in April of this year.

Ada Schrock, now in her 90s, lives with her sister in a quiet town near Yoder School.

Alvina Livengood, also in her 90s, lives in a retirement community almost within sight of Yoder School.

Drop a Pebble in the Water

Drop a pebble in the water:
Just a splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
Flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
Where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water:
In a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing,
And there’s ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing
To a great big wave have grown;
You’ve disturbed a mighty river
Just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
In a minute it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading
From the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them,
Once you’ve started them to flow.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
In a minute you forget;
But there’s little waves a-flowing,
And there’s ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart
A mighty wave of tears you’ve stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy
Ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
Just a flash and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort
On each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn’t believe the volume
Of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
In a minute you forget;
But there’s gladness still a-swelling,
And there’s joy a-circling yet,
And you’ve rolled a wave of comfort
Whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water
Just by dropping one kind word.

by James W. Foley

The Promise of a Butterfly – and Spring

The hidden promise.

The promise. She remembered the time as if it were yesterday. When she saw a butterfly, it came back to her. She remembered.

It had been a dreary week, the winter she turned five. While she knew her father was not well that March, she didn’t think he would die. But he did.

Family and friends came and stayed. The body was brought into their home through the living room window, because the front door opened into a square cubicle that left no room for making a turn with a casket. The living room was small, and there were more people than chairs. It rained, and the house was full. It was stuffy and crowded. People sat stoically in the living room, their voices low or whispered.

People parked in her uncle’s muddy field next to the yard, and someone made a small bridge to span the dip between the field and the yard. Children had fun playing in the water and getting wet while parents sat somberly in the dim living room, sharing the grief of the young widow. First, the five-year old stayed inside, and then she went out and played.

The butterfly

Sometime after the burial, she noticed the butterfly. She couldn’t have said whether it was days or weeks later, but it was April when she saw the butterfly in the yard, flitting from bush to bush. She tried to follow and catch it, but she couldn’t.

The butterfly seemed oblivious to the child as he fluttered by; yet he always remained out of her reach. She’d creep up to the bush on which he was resting and reach up, hoping he’d stay. He didn’t.

More than a year later, she entered first grade. They didn’t have kindergarten then, so it was in first grade when she learned to read. She learned a lot of other things about life, for this teacher* believed in teaching more than reading, ’riting, and ‘rithmetic. The teacher knew her students, and she gave love as well as discipline to them. More importantly, the teacher gave time.

The questions

Yet, deep in the child’s heart was an empty spot. And there were questions. Many of them. There were questions about whether or not there really was life after death.  Whether she would really see her father again.  Whether all the things she had heard about Heaven were real. She didn’t realize that she wondered — she just knew she had questions and there seemed to be no answers. But there were (answers, that is).

When the teacher decided that watching a caterpillar develop into a butterfly would be a science lesson in itself, it was a good thing. Someone, somewhere, found a small caterpillar and brought it to class. The teacher put the caterpillar into a glass jar and screwed a lid on top. She punched holes in the lid so the caterpillar could breathe. Then she put small twigs and milkweed leaves in the jar so the caterpillar would have something to eat. It ate, and it grew.

In less than two weeks, promisethe caterpillar was about two inches long and had eight pairs of legs. The first three pairs would later become the butterfly’s legs. The caterpillar shed its skin and the children watched. It happened many times.

Each time it shed its skin, a new skin was there, waiting. The teacher explained that a new skin is always waiting under the skin that is shed. “That’s life,” she said. The caterpillar stopped nibbling on the milkweed plant in the jar. It made a mat and hung onto the mat with its last pair of legs. It hung upside down for about a day. The caterpillar just hung and did not move.

As the caterpillar shed its last skin, it left in its place the chrysalis that was soft. It was baby soft.

The chrysalis became hard. “It always happens this way,” the teacher said. “You can count on it. When the chrysalis gets hard, it means that soon the butterfly will come out.”  It was a promise. She was right.

The day the caterpillar emerged from its cocoon was a school day. Everyone wanted to hold the jar and watch. Everyone wanted to see what was happening. The bashful child wanted to see, too. The teacher put more twigs into the jar so the butterfly could climb onto them. Then they waited to see what would happen. It couldn’t fly—not yet.

First its wings were tiny, crumpled, and wet. The wings would need to grow stronger and get dry before the new butterfly could fly. While the teacher taught second grade arithmetic and then listened to the first graders read, the children watched to see if the butterfly’s wings would become drier, stronger, and ready for flight. It happened, just like she said it would.

The answer

When it was time to let the butterfly go, the teacher took the jar outside. The children in the class got to go along. Once outside, the teacher opened the lid. After what seemed like a long time, the butterfly began to stretch its wings and move them, a little at a time. The monarch climbed to the top of the twig near the edge of the jar. Tentatively at first, it moved up and out, testing the air with its wings. In another minute, it was free. Gently lifting itself out of the jar and into the open air, it drifted up, floating with the wind until it was gone. Just like that.

God restores

Still buried deep inside the heart of the child was the question: how can God make anything beautiful come from someone’s death, especially if that someone is a father of young children? If there is a God, why do people suffer? If there is a God who cares about people, why are there wars and anger and hate; floods and earthquakes and tsunamis; hail and fire and tornadoes? Why?

Watching the monarch butterfly drift out of sight, the child caught a glimpse of something bigger than a butterfly that lives for a short time and then is gone. promiseShe understood more than how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly; how metamorphosis occurs; how God can take something old and ugly, and turn it into something beautiful. Just like winter turning to spring.

The promise returns

Half a century later, she still remembers the butterfly that made the difference. When she sees a butterfly, she remembers. Seeds that lie dormant all winter will revive. Bulbs buried in the ground in the fall will die; in the spring, flowers will appear where the bulbs were planted. When March gives way to April, she remembers that life comes after death.

Winter never closes its curtain unless Spring is waiting in the wings. Spring symbolizes life and healing and purpose. Spring always comes, and it always follows winter [Genesis 8:22]. It always has. It always will. Welcome, sweet Spring!

*With appreciation to Alvina Livengood of Springs, Pennsylvania, who taught first and second grade at Yoder School in Grantsville, Maryland for many years.

Photo Credits:


Shawn Creath, for use of the feature photo

butterfly promise


A Calf is Born. Will it Live – or Die?

There’s a new calf at our place.

She is the second calf born in the past ten days.


The first one weighed about fifty pounds, and she’s a combination of brown and black. Her name is Stormy because she was born during those days and nights of torrential rain when schools were closed for three days because of flooding.

The one born this week is larger and she is red. She’s a beauty, all right. We haven’t named her. I thought she looked like a Fritzlie (yes, it’s spelled right, and unless you know Pennsylvania Dutch, you won’t get the name), but now I’m thinking Flopsy might be a better name. There are a few more calves to be born, so there’s always a chance for a Mopsy.

The only problem is, her mama is the heifer-now-cow that Dave calls Wild One. Only now she’s the Wild Mama. She’s not acting much like a mama. She did a few things right. First off, she licked the calf clean and dry. That’s important, you know. The calf was up and walking in a short time, so Dave assumed all was well.

The next day, the calf was down – lying in the middle of sunny buttercup flowers, ears lying back, and listless. Dave came in from work to take care of the calf. A bottle of colostrum was fed via a nipple bottle and the calf remained there amid the buttercups.

Learning to suck on the nipple.

Nine hours later, she was up and running with the other calf in the pasture. Wild Mama seemed to take more of an interest and they could be seen together around the pasture. We hoped they were bonding. Yet, Dave couldn’t get close enough to Wild Mama to see if she had been nursed. Twice in the first twelve hours, Wild Mama charged him. That’s a sign of a good mama, you know. Good mamas are protective of their offspring and this mama wasn’t about to let him get too close.

So why did she leave her calf lying alone at the far end of the pasture? Why go off by herself for hours at a time? This Wild Mama is more than wild. She’s a wild puzzle. Or you could call her a wild card. Even the farmer who delivered her to our place asked me just the other day if we still had “that wild thang at your place.” She’s a puzzle, that’s for sure.

Nuzzling her baby

We’re still waiting to see what’s going to happen with this one. I am sad, for springtime is a time of new life, new growth, and new birth. Birds are building nests and eggs are hatching. Flowers and trees are blooming. Gardens are beginning to provide fresh produce.

I want this calf to survive and to thrive.

I want this mama to be the “mama she ought to be”. Will it happen? Time will tell.

We’ve prayed over this calf and we don’t mind at all if you pray, too.

Pinterest Calf is Born

Spring is On Its Way

spring is on its way

I see before me through the rain

A tree with buds on it again

A-burst with life ‘mid winter’s strain

For spring is on its way.

The flowers of plenty in the ground

Are bursting forth from all around

Soon flower and fragrance will be found

And night will change to day.

spring is on its way

So you who wrestle and wearily plod

And sometimes ask and question God

Be still – and list!

Spring breaks the sod

As God wills it to be.


Be still – and list – and quiet be

And He Who Is Eternity

Will calm your storming, raging sea

For spring was meant to be.


New life, new birth from God’s green earth 

Thus, Spring will help you see

As fragrance comes from broken buds

So Spring can set you free.

Pinterest Spring is on its way