Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Hamentashen Story

My daughter, Haley, came home from school and told me this story.  I asked her if I could share it, because I love it when even the tiny details of our lives are touched by the hand of God!  If you read my previous post, you know that, for the holiday of Purim, my family likes to make hamentashen and give them to friends.  Hamentashen are delicious triangle shaped cookies said to represent Haman's hat (or ears, depending on who you ask).  So, this year we made two batches of hamentashen (we had to have enough for us to eat, too!).  We packaged many of them in cute little bags tied with curly ribbons, with a tag attached explaining a little about what they are.  One of these little bags was to go to Haley's Spanish teacher.  He likes to learn about other cultures and traditions, and we had promised him some hamentashen.  She took the bag to his classroom in the morning, and he was nowhere to be found, so she placed it on his desk so it wouldn't get crushed in her locker.  Later, when she went to Spanish class, she found that there was a substitute teacher that day.  The teacher said, "Haley, is this hamentashen for ME?".  Haley, knowing this teacher and her history, answered, "Yes!".  You see, Haley had this lady as a long-term substitute last year, and they had many discussions about faith and religion.  She is Jewish!  Her mother is a concentration camp survivor.  This year at Purim she didn't get to have any hamentashen because she and her husband hadn't made their usual trip to Washington D.C. to buy some.  You need to understand that where we live in Delaware, there is no local bakery who would even know what hamentashen is.  There is no local synagogue and no kosher deli.  You can count the number of Jewish families on one hand.  So, to have this Jewish lady be Haley's substitute Spanish teacher on the day she brought in hamentashen is quite a "coincidence"!  She was absolutely thrilled, and said that Haley made her day.  She couldn't wait to take the hamentashen home to her daughter.  I think it is so amazing when the Father works in our everyday circumstances to bless others!  What a demonstration of His great love and compassion!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why I Love Purim

Have you ever heard of Purim? Until a few years ago, I really hadn't. I may have heard the word, but I had no idea what it was. Then I found out I already knew the story of Purim; in fact, it's one of my favorite stories ever! If you have ever read the book of Esther from the Bible, then you know the story of Purim! My family and I now celebrate the joyous holiday of Purim. Here's why I love it:

Purim is the celebration of a real live "fairy tale", complete with a king, a girl who becomes a queen and her courageous guardian, an evil villain, and a happily ever after ending. Here is a very brief summary of the story of Esther (you can read it for yourself in the Bible):
Hadassah was a young Hebrew woman who lived in Persia in the 5th century B.C. Her Persian name was Esther. She, along with many of the young ladies in the land, was summoned to be brought before the king so he could choose a new queen, after the previous queen had been banished. (see, it already sounds like a fairy tale, but it's true!) Esther spent an entire year with the young women preparing for their appearances before the king. She was loved by everyone she met. And when she met the king, he loved her, too, and chose her to be his new queen. Esther had been raised by her relative, Mordecai, who had advised her not to tell the king of her Hebrew heritage. He also had become aware of a plot to kill the king. Mordecai told Esther, and Esther told the king. Mordecai had saved the king's life.
Enter the evil villain. Haman was a descendant of the Jew-hating Amalekites, and had made his way up to the most important position of influence to the king. Being an enemy of the Jews, he convinced the king to declare that anyone of Hebrew heritage should be destroyed. The day for this to occur was chosen by lottery (which is where we get the word "Purim", from the Persian word "pur", for "lot"). When Esther found out about this, she asked Mordecai to gather all of the Jews and have them fast, while she also would fast. After being encouraged by Mordecai that she had been placed where she was for "such a time as this", she decided she must risk her life and appear before the king unsummoned. The king accepted her appearance and her invitation for Haman and the king to banquet with her. Meanwhile, the king had decided that he wanted to honor Mordecai for saving his life. He asked Haman what he should do to honor a man who had pleased the king, and Haman (thinking it was himself) advised him to let the man wear royal clothes, a crown, and be paraded through the city on the king's horse for everyone to see. The king ordered this to be done for Mordecai, and Haman was mortified!
Time for Esther's banquet. At this banquet, she invited them to a second banquet, where she finally revealed her ancestry. The king was furious with Haman for attempting to destroy the family of his queen! He took away the signet ring he had given Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. He ordered Haman to be hanged on the very gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai. Since his previous order for the Jews to be killed could not be revoked, he made a new order that they were allowed to defend themselves when attacked. On that day, the Jews prevailed over their enemies. Since then, a joyous day of celebration takes place every year on that day.

As decreed by Mordecai, this day is celebrated by feasting and joy, sending "portions" to one another, and gifts to the poor. Jewish children, and people of all ages, often have costume parties where they dress up like queens and kings, and the hero Mordecai. In Israel there are fun and festive Purim parades, puppet shows and parties.

Here's how my family celebrates Purim: We like to make "hamentashen" to enjoy and to give to our friends. Hamentashen are triangular cookies filled with a sweet filling. They represent Haman's hat, and they are delicious!  We sometimes send gifts of food and yummy treats to friends and family who live far away.  We donate money and items to charities.  My husband reads aloud the "Megillah" (the story of Esther), and the rest of us use noisemakers and say "boo" every time we hear Haman's name.  This is done to "erase" the name of Haman.  Then we cheer every time Mordecai or Esther is mentioned.  It's so much fun!  We also like to watch the movie "One Night With the King", which tells the story of Purim so well.

Purim is a time to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.  It is also a time to follow the example of Esther and Mordecai, and take courage!  We can be brave and take whatever action God might require of us, for He will be with us.  He gives each of us exactly what we need at precisely the right time, and he works in our circumstances to achieve his intricate plan.  Purim is a time to remember that you may have been placed right where you are for such a time as this!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sewing in Spanish

Last week I had the privilege of helping in Del (aka ProfĂ©) Swartzentruber's Spanish classes at my daughter's high school. What fun to be back in high school! The students were working on a project making flags of Spanish speaking countries and autonomies. I helped for two days, instructing the class on how to use a sewing machine, and helping with their flags when they needed it. My daughter worked as my assistant. They planned and pinned, cut out, sewed and pressed their fabric into colorful flags. For some, it was the first time they had even attempted to use a sewing machine, and others were already pretty familiar with one.  It was fun to watch them carefully cutting and sewing the pieces together.  Some of the flags had stars and other details that were a little more complicated.  Some of the students had a little trouble at first, but caught on very quickly.  A few were more adventurous, including one student who sewed a miniature Mexican flag onto his shirt to express his nationality! Everyone seemed to enjoy learning a new skill and creating their own work of art.  (I didn't expect them to enjoy it so much!) They all did a fantastic job, and were very proud of their accomplishments!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Celebrating 23 Years!

A candid moment on 3/12/1988

Today is the 23rd anniversary of the day I became Mrs. Robert Zachry.  Time has flown since that day! I can hardly believe it has been so long. I was 18 and he was 22. We dated for a month before he proposed. We were engaged for less than four months. Looking back, it all sounds a bit insane, doesn't it? But we knew we were made for each other, and we even had our parents' blessings and support. In fact, I think maybe our mothers "knew" before we did! And they were right. God had blessed us and our marriage greatly. The past 23 years have been filled with adventures of all kinds, and I am thrilled to have spent them side by side with the man God created to be my perfect match. I look forward to a beautiful future, whatever it may hold, with the one true love of my life.
Here are a few photos of our wedding day:

...and a more recent one:

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Value of Virtue and the Worth of Wisdom: $3 or Priceless?

One of my favorite antique shops is called "Antique Alley". It is one of those places that I can get lost in for hours, with both an upstairs and a basement filled with all sorts of vintage treasures. One day I was browsing in the basement, and I found this beautiful cross-stitch sampler that I knew I must have. The elegant alphabet letters were flanked on either side with vases of tulips, all surrounded by a lovely border, and below was this phrase: "may virtue all my steps attend and wisdom be my constant friend". I picked up the sampler and flipped it over to find the price, and what I found made me feel like crying. $3.00. All the time and effort someone had put into this piece, stitching such a meaningful phrase, and now it sat in a dusty basement corner, available for me to purchase for a mere $3.00. What a sad commentary of the things that are no longer valued today. defines virtue as "1. moral excellence; goodness; righteousness. 2. conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude." In the Bible, Proverbs 31 tells us all about the virtuous woman. She is a successful, happy, industrious woman, and her husband and her children love and praise her. Virtue is something to strive for! Wisdom is defined as "the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight". Wisdom is definitely something we could all use a little of! Virtue and wisdom should be foremost in our minds when considering our actions. This phrase should be one to live by, not hidden away in a basement somewhere in Delaware.
This sampler now hangs on my bedroom wall, right by the door. Every time I glance at it as I walk through that door, the phrase makes its way into my heart and life a little bit more. "May virtue all my steps attend and wisdom be my constant friend". I imagine the loving hands that stitched this little phrase, carefully working for hours, crafting a work of art for someone special. Was it made for a young bride perhaps? Or maybe for a sister, mother, grandmother, or dear friend? I will never know who it was for or how it ended up where it did. But now I have discovered it. And to me, it is not worth $3.00. It is priceless.