I would say that I have lived a pretty easy life. My parents were saved the year I was born so I never had to deal with abusive family members or alcholic parents. I never had to have a major surgery or ever really had a major sickness at all. I have no allergies and I am a very healthy person. My children are all very healthy and I am blessed to say we have had very minor reasons to go to the ER, and even then, God was faithful and made those small situations better very quickly. Nothing turned out to be an extreme problem and nobody ended up having any surgeries. Now, I am not saying that I have not experienced death or hardships in my life. My grandfather died from diabetes and pneumonia just a few months before I was married. My great grandmother passed away in 1985 and my mom's mother died a few years ago. My sister suffered a broken neck, almost becoming paralyzed, but God was merciful and she is walking today. Back in 2002 I had a miscarriage when I was six weeks along, but in all my 37 years, I must say that I have been blessed with a very easy lifetime. I have watched people that I know struggle with one hardship after another, and it never seemed to let up for them. I have wondered why they never got a break. I have seen sickness and death all around me, creeping closer and closer to the ones I love dearly. I know nobody is immune. We all live in a fallen word, full of sin, disease, and evil lurking around every corner. Because Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, it began a process in our bodies that makes them deterioate and break down, becoming the very dirt that we were created out of in the first place. I often hear people asking the question, "Why?" Why did my mother have to get cancer? Why did I lose my baby? Why did my husband leave our family? I may not be able to answer those questions, because only God knows just why He allowed it to happen. Look at Job in the Bible, how he suffered through the loss of all his wealth, the death of his children, his health, possibly even his home, and the love of his wife for a time. He never found out the reason why all that happened to him. We know, because we get to read the story and see what happened in the heavenly realm, but Job did not have the Book of Job available at the time. Yet, he accepted it and bowed down to the Lord and said, "The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." I understand life happens and things come with it that are extremely hard to take. If we are not going through a trial right now, I am sure it will come. I know it will be my turn sometime, maybe sooner than I think. I may not understand it and it may blow my mind and wipe me out mentally and physically, but God is not going to give me more than I can bear. That is His promise. I know He will give me the grace and mercy I need during the struggles that come my way. Maybe I will ask the question, "Why?" Maybe He will answer by gently holding me in His arms and tell me, "Because, my child, it was your turn." When that trial comes, I want to be able to be like Joseph was in his struggles. He was an amazing example of how we should be when life does not go as we planned. May God grant me the grace and strength to deal with what lies ahead.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev 21:4
Donna had been around all my life. For the longest time, she was the lady who could not walk. She was the lady who had to be carried into church by the strong young men and set down carefully into her lounge chair at the back of the room. She was the lady who loved to call my mother and talk for three hours as my mother sat and wondered what she could say for an excuse to get off so she could get supper started. To a little girl of eight, Donna was that poor lady who was paralyzed from the neck down and could not do anything by herself. I felt nervous around her and was scared to talk to her. I did not know what to say so I often avoided her.
As I grew older and became a teenager, Donna saw a need in our church and began to organize activities for the teens and young adults. I am sorry to say there were not too many that were enthusiastic about her get-togethers - some even felt it was a bother to try to fit her plans into their busy schedule, but for someone like me, they were a welcomed change in my life. I had a desire to find a close friend; someone who I could share my hidden thoughts with; someone who would help me bloom into becoming the lady God wanted me to be.
Donna organized hikes, canoe trips, horseback riding, and whatever else she could think of that young people would enjoy doing. Personally, I think she was simply living the life she wished she could have through the people around her. Watching them enjoy themselves brought pleasure to her and made her feel like she was a part of it even though she was confined to her bed. There were even nights when we would all meet at the convalescent center in Burlington where she lived, and we spent hours playing “Dictionary”, “Guess Who?," and eating pizza.
As I began to see that Donna was just a normal lady, who, even though she could not walk or move around freely, was bright, stubborn, loved to read, enjoyed talking, and dearly loved the Lord, I began to find a good friend. Donna knew what it meant to be lonely. She knew what it meant to have nobody to talk to and I could relate to that and our friendship grew. I would often go down to visit her after church on Sundays and stay for a few hours as we ate lunch and chatted. She had her nurse friends do my hair and we looked at magazines of pretty dresses and hairstyles. We talked about boys, and books, and she often talked about her quiet times with the Lord that almost made me wonder if God spoke audibly to her. Slowly she pried me out of my shell and I began to open up to her.
She always enjoyed having the younger children surrounding her so she began to organize 'just girl’ get-togethers when I would bring along my three sisters, and lots of other girls would come hang out as we ate pizza and watched movies. I can still remember one Saturday evening when all the girls were on Donna’s bed, using it like a jungle gym. Another gal and I pushed the bed around the room like it was a racecar, while the little girls clung to the siderails and screamed. Donna loved every minute of it and was all smiles as she laughed with the silly girls.
Donna always seemed to be positive in her attitude and always encouraged me to go with my dreams, as well as seek God's will in my life. She always understood me; she even defended me when others said I could not think for myself because I never said anything. She taught me how to voice my thoughts and opinions and she was never too shy to say what she thought. After having lived 26 years inside a hospital after her car accident when she was 18 years old, she had many unlived dreams and did not want to see anyone else have to go through the ordeal she had been through. Even though she hated having others do everything for her, she still amazed me with her strength and abilities even with the limitations she had. She always had a hope that one day she would walk again and get to do all the things she only dreamed of lying in her bed.
I was shocked the day I came home from work and heard the news, "Donna passed away this morning." I could not believe my ears! How could this have happened? I had only seen her a week or so before and she had seemed fine. She had been through bouts of pneumonia before and always had the will to make it through, but this time, she had not wanted anyone to know. It was like she had given up, which was so unlike her. Maybe she knew it was time to go and did not want to fight it. All I knew was that I would never again receive another call from Donna, or ever see her lying in her bed, her long braid hanging down the side of the mattress....her advice and friendly chatter would be greatly missed.
The one thought that did comfort me was the image I had of her seeing heaven for the first time. My, how her eyes must have lit up with joy and tears as she stood looking at the pearly gates, with her two perfectly healed legs. Gone were the twisted, bony sticks she used to have; gone were the curled fingers and hands that could only scratch her nose if she had an itch - in her new body, she must have walked through those gates and looked into Jesus's face for the very first time; she much have tenderly touched his nail-scarred hands and then knelt at His feet in worship and reverence. I could imagine her running, leaping, and skipping all over the streets of gold. In heaven she did not have to depend on anybody to feed her, dress her, or brush her hair. Never would she cry or feel pain again. She was with Jesus. The wonder and peace that comes with knowing a dear friend is safe in heaven is such a sweet thing. And someday I will be reunited with my dear friend who had come to mean so much to me, and that will be a glorious day indeed.
Back in February of 2005, we took a trip down to Virginia for a family vacation. We had four small children at the time, and we knew the trip would take many long hours. My husband had recently purchased a GPS for his business and was very excited to be able to set out and test his new product, showing me all the wonderful things that it could do. Along our journey, my husband decided to take a different route than the GPS instructed and for a few hours, we constantly heard it say, "Take a u-turn! Turn right in 300 feet and make a u-turn." When he did not do as she told him she would then say,"Recalculating!"
The woman's voice began to grate on my nerves and I started to wring my hands in annoyance. I could not understand what was so great about this GPS if he was not even going to follow her instructions and have it constantly yell at him to turn around and go back. I began to secretly wish I had a hammer so I could silence her voice. Since we were in Virginia at this point, I nicknamed the thing 'Ginny' and kept telling her to be quiet. I was ready to toss her out the window! Who needed her help anyway? Needless to say, I was not overly impressed with all that she could do. It was not until later that week of our vacation that I realized how helpful she could be by showing us restaurants and shopping centers when it was time to go exploring.
My Pastor told a similar story awhile back, and made a very simple, yet intriguing application to our lives. He likened the Holy Ghost in our lives as a GPS -God's Positioning System -and said the Holy Ghost is that voice that we keep hearing over and over again, "Recalculating!" when we go off the path that God has chosen for us. Due to our own desires, temptations, or just not praying about a situation, we can stray off the path He wants us to follow, and do our own thing. That gentle voice is always there, reminding us to take the next u-turn so we can get back on the road following God's ways and not our own. We think we can do it ourselves, but sometimes we end up getting lost and find ourselves alone in a foreign place.
Pastor used the example of Elimelech and Naomi during the famine in Israel, which was caused because of the people's sin. Elimelech decided to take his family away from God's chosen place for His people. Naomi went out full, having a husband and two sons, and they went to a foreign country. There, Elimelech died, leaving Naomi alone with Mahlon ( meaning sickly) and Chillion (meaning wasting away.) That could not be God's best for them! Did they not get the idea to turn around and go back? No, not at all. First, they forsook God's promises, and secondly, they fought against God's punishment and as a result, lost all the men in the family. Which brings us to the third point: she forfeited God's provision. Naomi ended up returning to her homeland when she heard there was bread once again in Israel. She came back broken and bitter at God for what He had done to her. She could not see that all the time she had been fighting against the GPS in her life and had done it to herself. The one good thing she had done was lead Ruth to believe in her God. It was through Ruth that Naomi's eyes were opened to the truth and her heart began to heal from the bitterness inside. God used that family for good, because that is the line that Jesus was later born into.
Let's examine our own hearts and see if there is a small voice saying, "Recalculating!" It just may be the Holy Ghost wanting us to turn around and get back on the path of His choosing.
Many times I have felt forsaken and alone even though I was among a large group of people. It seemed like nothing was going right and wave after wave of unrest and trial kept coming my way. I felt like I was entirely alone in the world and nobody cared what I felt or thought.
But Somebody did. Jesus cared and will continue caring for me until the day I meet Him face to face in heaven. Every time I poured out my broken heart to Him, He proved Himself faithful. It never took long for Him to reach down and tenderly wrapped His loving hands around my heart, making it whole once again. Oh, the sweet presence and joy that real peace brings!
I love the words from the song Does Jesus Care:
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks--
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?
"The best cure for an empty day or a longing heart is to find people who need you. Look, the world is full of them." Anonymous
To be honest, the last quote has taken me years to figure out. There are others out there going through more pain and loneliness than I could ever imagine. If I had learned this truth during my teenage years and given feet to the words above, then the lonely days would have been much different for me. God has been good and I have been blessed. Thank You, Lord, for never giving up on me!
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
I remember that day in September of 1993 when my friend S---- and I went job hunting. It was the end of the busy summer activities and things were beginning to quiet down. We knew we needed to find a job during the winter and we had decided to drive up to Smuggler’s Notch and check out their job openings.
We were given a stack of papers that described each job and I sorted through them, tossing aside the ones that did not interest me. Feeling discouraged, I stood up and walked away, only to be called back by my friend.
“Read this,” she said handing me a paper. “This sounds like something you would enjoy doing.”
I took the paper and read the description of the job which went something like this: Costumed characters, Mogul Mouse and Billy Bob Bear; meet and greet children at the end of the ski day, attend the Welcome Party every Monday, and gets lots of hugs.
“Can you imagine me running around in a mouse costume?” I asked her.
She simply answered, “Yes I could.”
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I filled out an application and on my way home I found that I had already earned the nickname of Mogul Mouse by my friend.
A few days later I got a call from the resort and I was told the job was mine if I wanted. Of course I said yes and a few days later I found out what it was like to become a 5’5” mouse, whose best friend was a bear.
Mogul Mouse, who's name had come straight from the skiing slopes on the mountain was a country mouse at heart, which was perfect for me. Billy Bob Bear was the other mascot of Smuggler’s Notch. He was Mogul’s friend and they worked close by each other every day. Together they had all sorts of adventures, such as pretend duels, dancing arm in arm, games of Hide n' Seek, and tag. Most of the children loved every minute of it, most of them believing,
or simply going along with the characters.
Mogul Mouse became a part of me that winter and I soon learned that even though the job appeared to be an easy one, Mogul's life was very hard. For example, Mogul had to endure the snippy remarks of lots of 'know-it-all' children. Whenever Mogul went outside to greet the skiiers, some snobby little kid always had to ask, "Are you real?" as he peered into the screened eyes of the poor, silent mouse. Because Mogul was not allowed to talk, there was no way to answer except nod and dance around, hoping to distract the inquiring child. This always seemed to lead to the next question which was, "Why do you have velcro on your back?" as the naughty child tugged on the closure and tried to yank the head off. Though there were other staff members working in the area, sometimes they were oblivious to the threats and abuse that poor Mogul suffered at the hands of the young skiers. Desperate for help, Mogul or Billy would run to the nearest worker and whisper, "Help me!"
Standing out in the cold no matter if it was 32 degrees or minus 10 degrees was part of the job requirements. Some days the visits with the children were short as we rushed inside to warm our numb toes and fingers. Also, getting hit on the head with ski poles was not something I had signed up for, at least it had not been in the contract. Then there was the time when we had a huge snowball fight and one kids decided to throw an ice ball at Billy Bob's face. He ended up going inside with a bloody nose and was out of commission for quite some time.
It was our job to maintain the appearance of the two mascots to the little ones who did believe. As soon as we arrived at the resort and retrieved the costumes, we had to stuff them in garbage bags and carry them across the long parking lot to the building where we put them on. Can you imagine what a child would say if he knew we were carrying Mogul Mouse and Billy Bod inside a plastic bag?
Some evenings, we went to the sledding hill and slid down on the tubes with the children. Billy Bob, whose head did not fasten on with velco like mine did, had to hold his head on so he would not lose it. The one time that it did go bouncing and rolling down the hill caused some commotion among the young children that saw it fall off, but once the head was restored all was well again.
Billy and Mogul had to attend the welcome parties where they got to dance the Hokey Pokey and do the Chicken Dance. Because this particular event took place inside, the heavy fur costume made the sweat pour down inside, soaking the clothing underneath. It was always a relief to get back outside and feel the cool air again.
Yes, it was an adventure that I will never forget. Even amid the tough times of the job, we had a lot of fun times. My favorite memory was the time I decided to go skiing while dressed in the costume. I did not realize how hard it would be to see with the large, round head with only two small eyeholes to look out. I put my skis on and got into the line at the lifts. It was fun to watch the reaction of the people around me and the children were delighted to see me on skis. I sat next to a little girl on my way up to the mid point of the hill and got off, barely making it down the ramp without falling. I realized that since I had made this decision to ski in the resort's mascots costume, I had to make a good attempt and really try hard not to fall down.
I began skiing slowly, making my way across the slope so I would not make a fool of myself. People waved as they rode over my head on the lift and I often stopped and patted the little one's heads as they stood in line for their lessons. I made it down in one piece and got right back on the ski lift again, ready for another trip down the mountain.
The best part of the job though, was the fact that I found I could act any way I wanted and nobody knew who I was. My shyness and self-consciousness disappeared. Even some people who I knew personally never knew I was the one in the costume as they gave me a hug. It was a wonderful experience and I will never forget the part Mogul Mouse played in my life.
1Pe 3:7 - "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."
This verse always made me wonder what God was trying to say to women. Nobody likes to be called weak. Nobody likes to be "put down" or be made to appear insignificant. I am no different in this area, but one day, my view of it all changed for me. I heard the most beautiful analogy of what exactly God was saying in this verse and it made me view this verse differently. Listen to this, ladies, and be blessed!
First off, let me ask you - do you have a hutch in your house somewhere, with fragile china dishes stored behind glass doors? Do you give your daughters your best tea set to play house with? Do you let your boys play ball near your fine crystal vase that sits in the corner of your room or up on the shelf? Are all your breakables put up high from those little toddler hands exploring the world? Why not? Simply because those items are fragile. That vase or those dishes are something very special to you and you make a special attempt to protect them from harm. They are not any 'less' then the every day dishes you use for normal serving - in fact, they are more special and are viewed as precious. We, as women, are like those precious, fragile, delicate dishes. God does not view us as weaklings, but He sees how special we are and puts us under the protection of our husbands to watch out for us. Their leadership and authority is the hutch or shelf that puts us out of the way of dangeray. We are tender, gentle, precious, and beautiful in our special place where God has placed us. It is for our safety that He keeps us 'undercover' and away from the things that would hurt or break us. It is not a bad thing to be 'weak' as this verse puts it. The gentle spirit of a woman is a blessing and I believe that her emotional side was taken from Adam and placed inside the woman. And to top it off, when we are in our rightful place, our prayers can go to heaven unhindered! God will hear us and answer us. How wonderful is that? Be proud of who God made you and let the world know that you are a woman and you are not ashamed to be who God created you to be. And rest in the peace that God knows best and loves you so very much. God bless you all!
When you give children an idea, they have a tendency to run with it. If you give them an inch, they will take a mile. That was how it was with the 'mummy in the closet.’ I know I should not have said it the first time, but I could not help it. I was at my wits end and desperate times called for desperate measures. I figured if it would help maintain control and peace in the classroom, then it was worth a try.
It all began that October morning as I was subbing for a teacher who was away tending to her mother. The class of nine had been extremely rowdy and did not want to sit down to do their work. One of the first grade boys, who loved to talk and be the center of attention, asked what was kept inside the closet in the back of the room. Having never looked inside the closet for myself, I had no idea what was kept in there, but it seemed a bit of a mystery because a large sign on the front of the door said nobody was allowed inside except for the principal of the school.
"I'm not sure what is inside there," I told him. Then, partially joking and partially hoping it might scare them into submission, I said, "Maybe Mr. K. keeps his mummy inside it."
This brought about a silence in the room as the children pondered the idea. I could see the wheels turning as questions began to form in their little minds. One by one they began to voice their thoughts:
"Does he come out at night when we are gone?"
"What does he look like?"
"I've seen mummies before and they are wrapped up in toilet paper!"
"Why does Mr. K. keep his Mommy in the closet?"
Over the next few weeks, I played along with the game, not thinking too much about it, using their nervousness to my advantage. I could tell they were not really that scared because they always had little smirks on their faces as they discussed the mummy. Their wild imaginations did not need much encouragement when it came to scaring each other and telling crazy tales of things they supposedly saw in the dark, scary bathroom downstairs. The kindergarteners and first graders were more than happy to do anything but the work that was assigned to them for the day.
I told Joe about the mummy and we secretly laughed and joked about how it would be funny to wrap him up in toilet paper and hide him in the closet. We thought he could knock on the door and moan a little, and then come out and reveal who he really was. Though it was hilarious to think of the reactions I would get from the children, I did not think it would be a wise idea to actually follow through. I would never hear the end of it from their parents and I was sure the office would not be pleased with my actions.
A few weeks later the weather became cold as November began, and it was time to turn on the heat. Now, the heating system in the old school building is very loud and obtrusive at times as the pipes warm up after the cold nights. It was early morning and the children began arriving at school. After putting their backpacks away and handing in their homework, I let them quietly play until all nine children had arrived. It was during this time that the pipes, which happened to be in the corner right near the closet door, started popping as the warm water flowed through. With a hiss and a pop, a loud thumping startled the children and they paused in their play. The banging became louder and stronger. I could almost feel the floor shake from the fury of it and it made the children screech and run away.
“It’s the mummy!” one boy shouted. “He’s banging on the door and wants to come out!”
They all hid in the play corner, behind a large shelf that blocked their view of the door. I had to keep from laughing. I could not believe the timing! I contemplated letting them continue thinking it was the mummy, but I felt it was time to stop the whole thing and move on in li I explained to them that everything was okay and that it was only the heating system making the noise. They acted as though they did not believe me, but I could see they did not want to give up the fun idea that an ancient Egyptian artifact was so close by! They enjoyed playing the game right along with everyone else. I called them over to the door and I opened it so we could all peek inside. It was a deep closet, deeper than I had imagined, and it was full of costumes and equipment from plays the school had put on in the past. A black top hat hung on a hook nearby and one boy said, “Look, it’s the mummy’s hat!”
Seeing a window in the wall, another little boy suggested the mummy had escaped out the window, but I assured him there was, and had never been, any mummy. It took awhile for the excitement to wear away, but, needless to say, they all began their work for the day with no more worries that anything was hiding in the closet.
I had a good laugh later that day when I related the story to Joe. We were glad we had not gone through with our original idea; the heating system had wreaked enough havoc with their minds and it was time to put the entire bit of nonsense on the shelf. In the future, if the school decides to put on a play that takes place in Egypt, I would highly recommend them not storing the props for the play in that closet until those particular children have moved on to another grade.
Westford, Vermont is a town so small it may not even be on a map, but it has made a huge impact in my life. It was in that town where I spent my younger years, and it was where many happy childhood memories were made.
Reminiscing about our old home one evening with my brother brought a wave of homesickness for the old neighborhood, so I decided to drive out to Westford and take a look around. I parked my car near the little bus shelter at the beginning of the dead end dirt road and got out. The trees around me were covered with bright red and yellow leaves swaying gently in the breeze, and the air held a faint smell of winter. It would not be long before everything would be covered with snow and the pine trees, heavy with their white burden, would hang their heads making neat, cozy forts underneath their boughs.
I strolled over to the wooden bus stop and stepped onto the open porch so I could look inside. It seemed much smaller than I remembered and I had to duck when going through the narrow doorway. The windows were still broken, having been cracked by rocks thrown by some mischievous boys waiting for the bus many years ago. The walls still had carvings and pictures drawn by the bullies of the neighborhood, the ones who loved to pick on the younger, more helpless kids – like me.
When I returned back outside, I noticed a sign over the doorway that said, “Birch Ridge Road.” The sign was new; I wondered how many changes I would find along my journey.
I walked slowly down the dirt road pitted with potholes filled with muddy water. A few birds sang to me as if they were greeting me and asking why I had taken so long to return to my old home. Each house seemed the same; there were only about 17 houses on the entire street and the only ones that ever drove up the road were the few who lived there and then of course, the mailman.
The trek up the road did not seem as long as it had when I had walked it twice a day to get to the bus stop and then back again at the end of the school day. I remembered how frustrated I always became when my older brother, eager to share the news of the day with my mom before I could, ran up the road with his friends leaving me in the dust.
Before long I found myself at the bottom of the ‘big hill.’ To my left was the small volleyball court, with the old net rotting and hanging off the metal frame. The blackberry field on my right was overgrown and filled in with new trees and I wondered if anyone picked the juicy berries there anymore. We always had blackberry cobbler or made blackberry jam with the pints I would pick and bring home.
As I hiked up the steep incline, I thought back to all those times my family had trudged up the hill during snowy winter nights, arms full of grocery bags because our car had stubbornly decided it would not go any further up the icy hill. The old barrel at the bottom was rusty and did not appear to have any dirt inside it anymore. Maybe people did not need it these days with their four-wheel drive vehicles. Back then all we had was a monster station wagon that held our large family of eight.
When I reached the top, I was out of breath, but that was soon forgotten as I arrived at the spot where most of my memories came back to life. My friend’s house was just off to my right, near the path that led up to the old beaver pond far in the woods. A wooden house sheltered the two mailboxes at the bottom of her driveway. That had been our meeting places, oftentimes, after dinner was done and my chores had been finished. I had ridden my bike to the mailboxes many times, waiting for her to come out and play. Her brothers always came to hang out with my brother, and soon, all five of us would be happily riding up and down the road on our bikes, playing Hide ‘N Seek, and Geronimo! in the grass behind my mailbox. A few other friends always joined us when they saw us and joined in the fun too.
Finally, I reached the top of my old driveway. I stopped as I took in the scene below me. It was hard to see through the growth of the trees surrounding the U-shaped driveway, so I began walking to the other side of the driveway. An island of trees separated the two halves and as I walked by, and as I passed by the old birch tree swing, the sound of children laughing stopped me in my tracks. I turned around, expecting to see one of my old friends waiting for me on his bike. To my disappointment, I found I was alone, with only my mind playing tricks on me.
I reached the other half of the driveway and gazed down at my old house. It was still the same color grey, but a porch had been added onto the front where only a few steps had once been. A tall fence, painted the same color of the house, hid the woodshed my dad had built. It also hid the little stream that had been one of my favorite play sites during the spring when it was bubbling madly from the winter thaw. Long, thick grass covered the old basketball court, and gone was the old fire pit where we had roasted marshmallows and began many games of Flashlight Tag during the warm summer months.
Tears filled my eyes as I noticed the old apple tree in the front of the living room window. It had grown during the last few years, and was covered with red and yellow apples, which I knew from experience, were sour and full of worms. There were not any bird feeders hanging from the branches anymore, but I could see a little chipmunk sitting on one of the rocks below, chattering at something nearby. I had sat for hours watching the birds and little critters eat the seeds we put out for them, and had gained the trust of the Chick-A-Dees which would eat right out of my hand.
It was growing late so I hurried down to the end of the road, eager to see one more place that was special to me. It was the ‘rock’ as we used to call it, which had trees for climbing, a shallow frog pond, and a worn out path from riding our bikes up and down it. Many evenings had been spent on that rock, as we played games and made exciting plans for the next day’s activities.
The rock looked the same, except for the path which was covered with grass and moss. Seeing the path all grown in signaled to me that even though most everything seemed the same, changes were happening all over the place. Many of my childhood friends had moved away – there was not going to be any more evenings of sledding, bonfires, baseball games, or bicycle rides after dinner. A strange feeling came over me, making me wish I could press a rewind button and go back to those innocent, carefree days. All that was in the past now; gone were the days of crayons and toys. A new generation would come and take my place. Now was the time to begin a new phase of life – it was time to make new memories. Yet, one thing I know: my childhood memories would always be my favorite, because they were the ones that only a child could make.
Having five children in the house means lots of adventures and excitement. It also means there is always something to do whether it is mopping up spilled juice, vacuuming up a mound of cereal dumped onto the floor, or cleaning off the hand and lips prints all over the living room window. Each child has his own 'treasures' and often times it is hard to find a place to sit when I need a moment to rest my weary feet because all the possible seats are taken over by little bags of favorite Lego sets, stuffed animals, or some other 'toy of the day.' For this reason, as I am cleaning under the cushions or beneath the couch, I often find things that have fallen stray from their owners and have often been the source of stress due to the fact that they were missing. For some odd reason, I wonder why the child could not have gone and done the same job - go looking under the pillows for their missing item - instead of simply following me around and continually asking me if I have seen their missing piece. This remains a mystery to me.
Another mystery to me is why children think we will never find out what they did, when they know I am going to come through and do a major cleaning. Take today for instance: I was taking down my winter village and underneath the cotton snow I found two sets of Vitamin C's, hard as a rock and nasty looking. Did they not know I would eventually take the houses off the shelf and put them away? Maybe they were hoping the vitamins would rot and disappear before I had a chance to find them.
And what about the two peanut butter cup wrappers I discovered hidden in the bathroom closet, stuffed between the wall and my storage bin? Maybe they were hoping I would think the little dust bunnies had pulled it inside to build themselves a nest with for the winter!
How about the time I found twelve black numbers on top of a dresser? I knew I had seen them before and it only meant one thing - a certain child had pulled the numbers off of an old clock and had plans on making some experiement with them someday.
Yes, the way children think is indeed a mystery, but the truth be told is that I was a child once. I thought the ways of a child, did childish things, and did not entirely think things through. I know a little about how a child processes their thoughts. As a Mom, I can see through the eyes that are on the back of my head. Yet, even with their quirks and uncanny ways, they have something that I wish I still had: a childlike faith. When it comes to our faith, God wants us to be like a child. They hold no baggage from their past, do not have any regrets, and their thinking is pure and innocent. The worldly opinions have not bombarded them with optional views that may sway their individual simple beliefs. So, before judging that child and telling them, "Don't you know better? Don't you ever think?" Ask yourself what you can learn from their example and be a child again - trusting completely and never worrying about what the future may hold.
I have always enjoyed traveling, but during the last few years, traveling without my husband has spelled disaster. Not that it made any difference in my decisions about driving without him, because I had to go visit my family and friends even when he was in the middle of the busy season. It did not actually dawn on me until the eventful year of 2002, when I had two little boys and was six months pregnant with my third baby.
After one minor accident in Cape Cod, and another major accident at, well, I must admit that Massachussetts does not like me!, the rotary at the Bourne Bridge in Cape Cod, you would have thought I would have seen the light and stayed at home. Yet, that September found me on the road again, heading to my friend's house in Indiana. I figured I was not going to Massachussetts this time so it should not be a problem.
We made it without any incidents and had a wonderful, though extremely hot and humid, week with my friend, whom I will call Mary, and her family. Friday afternoon arrived - the day before we were to pack up and leave for home. I remember standing in my friend's computer room and a strange siren went off. Mary's face turned pale with fear.
"What's that?" I asked her. Having grown up in the sheltered state of Vermont, I did not have any idea what the sound meant.
"That's a tornado siren!" she told me. "It means a tornado is approaching our area."
I looked at her, still not sure of what exactly she was telling me. "Should I be scared?" I asked again, glancing out the window. Everything seemed very peaceful and calm outside. I did not see anything that looked like a funnel cloud.
"Yes!" she exclaimed. "Tornados are not fun! We must start praying!"
I will never forget that afternoon. The sights and sounds are forever etched into my brain and if I never experience another tornado in my life, that is perfectly fine with me.
We all gathered in the large living room. I sat down on the chair right in front of the long window that ran along the entire length of one wall. We began praying and singing, though the reality of what was coming still had not hit me yet. Caleb was sitting on my lap and JJ was sitting with Mrs. D. on the couch. All of a sudden, the sky behind me grew very dark and a strong wind began whipping the leaves around the yard.
"I think I better move away from the window," I thought to myself, suddenly feeling a little nervous. Mary ran behind a chair and pulled JJ down with her. I hurried to the couch and knelt down beside it, sheltering Caleb with my large belly. As the fierce winds grew stronger and louder outside, the prayers grew louder and stronger inside. It was as if a mighty train was rushing by. I dared to peek out the window and watched in fear and awe as I saw what looked like a snowstorm swirling around. I heard a loud crackling and wondered if the strange noise was always a part of a tornado.
Miracle of miracles, the glass window did not shatter into a million shards of deathly glass and remained intact the entire time. Also, once the storm was over, we discovered the crackling sound had been the gigantic tree in the front yard breaking apart and falling down - not onto us huddled in the living room, but into the neighbor's yard and garden. Later on, as we drove down the street to begin our trek home, we saw the sides of homes ripped away, and mass destruction along the entire street. To my amazement, we read in the paper that night that nobody died in that storm, and we heard some awesome stories of how God protected His people.
God had answered our prayers that day, and protected us from the dangerous storm, even in our lack of finding a safer place to hide. He became our safe haven that afternoon, and just as the rainbow was God's sign to Noah after the flood, the beautiful double rainbow that evening after supper was God's sign to me that no matter what happened, He would always be right there with me in the midst of the storm.