photo 2What do you get when you cross 14 kids with 275 plastic eggs filled with stickers and chocolate and quarters? Mayhem, bedlam…and more fun than you can shake a package of Peeps at.

That was the scene at my house yesterday. After church and lunch, all the kids and grandchildren, all the nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews showed up for a dessert buffet and egg hunt. (The weather was perfect—the warmest Easter we’ve had in four years!)

My sister and I had baked all day Saturday: a chocolate double-layer “sunflower” cake, buttery yellow cupcakes piled high with homemade icing, chocolate chip bars (my personal fave!), cheesecake topped with home-canned cherry filling, six dozen decorated sugar cookies (that’s 72 works of art!), bowls of fresh strawberries and melon and…the treat that stole the show: Peep-kabobs!

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The kids raced and giggled their way across the yard, pulling bright eggs from tree branches and car bumpers and bushes. Everyone was happy; no whining or complaining. When grandson Mace, age 5, found the “Grand Prize Egg” with the $20 inside, his two older brothers seemed genuinely happy for him.

After the frenzy subsided, the adults launched into a volleyball tournament while the kids ate chocolate and jumped on the trampoline. A few of us volunteered to stay inside and take on the “job” of holding the two babies, grandson Cole and great-niece Eve.

The party broke up just as the sun was setting, a great ball of orange that seemed a kiss on the wonder of the day. Cries of, “Where’s my bag of candy?” and “Get your shoes on” and “Thanks, Nina!” filled the air.

And then it was quiet. I watched the last car pull out of the driveway, tiny hands waving out the window. My family.

This morning, I saw my niece Scarlet had posted a picture of the kids all lined up by the garage, bags in hand, waiting for the egg hunt to start. She had captioned it: “We have enough kids to have our own egg hunt—14!”

As a child, I always wanted to be a missionary. To trek through the jungle waving my King James Bible overhead, looking for natives to convert. Although my heart was willing, I never got that call from God. I have spent my entire life in the Midwest. But, looking at that picture of my family, I smiled. Mission field? I’ve got one right here, literally in my backyard.

Chances are you do, too.

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photoMy grandson, Cole, is one stubborn little boy. I don’t know this because he refuses to share his toys or deliberately disobeys his parents.

He is, after all, only one day old.

But for months and months, Cole resolutely stayed upside down in the womb, refusing to turn even when it was time to begin his exit strategy. This position was difficult for his mother to handle. Stacy’s heartburn was extreme. Her hips and lower back ached and pained her terribly. As the weeks wore on, you could almost see in the way she carried the baby that something was very wrong.

“I need the baby to turn,” Stacy said to me.

“We’ll pray about it,” I said. And we did. I emailed my friends to seek God’s help in this. I put Stacy on the prayer chain at my church.

Days went by. Weeks went by. The baby didn’t budge.

“I don’t want a C-section,” Stacy told me after one of her doctor’s visits. I could hear the tears she was holding back. Stacy had already given birth to three healthy, lively children—Isabelle (6), Knox (4) and Will (2)—and she would need to take care of them when she came home with the new baby. “I need the baby to turn.”

Little Will did all he could to help. He would place his face close to Stacy’s belly and talk to the unborn child. “Baby, this is Will. Flip! Come out and I will hold you.”

Stacy is a firm believer in prayer. But she knows that answered prayer often depends on our doing all we can to achieve the hoped-for outcome. So she read and listened to strategies others said had worked in the past with breech babies. She went to the health club and did handstands in the deep end of the pool. (I am truly sorry I do not have video of this for you.) She submitted to acupuncture. “The baby wiggled around like crazy but didn’t turn,” she reported. She went to the hospital, along with her husband, Brett, and two doctors worked all morning trying to turn the baby by manipulating (pushing!) on her belly. Needless to say, this was painful. And, unfortunately, disappointing. The week before she was scheduled for her C-section, she went to a special pregnancy chiropractor every day.

But mostly Stacy prayed. Day after day. All day long as she went about her work and while taking care of her family, she would place her hands on her belly and pray that God would flip this child.

The night before she was to go into the hospital, Stacy and I talked on the phone, finalizing the plans for my taking care of the other three children. “Do you have your head around the fact that you will be having a C-section in the morning?” I asked. I thought it important that she accept what was going to happen to her.

“No,” Stacy said with a nervous little laugh. “I don’t.”

Stacy has a stubborn faith. I had talked to her about how God’s will isn’t always what we pray for, that no matter what comes our way God will work it for our good. She agreed…but in her heart continued to believe her baby would turn and be born naturally.

The day of the procedure arrived. I prayed that the doctor would have a steady hand, that the incision would be small, that the baby could be snatched whole and healthy from the womb. I waited hours for my son to call me. Finally the phone rang.

I grabbed it and blurted out, “How is everything? Did the surgery go well?”

Brett chuckled. “Well…the baby turned. Now we’re waiting for Stacy’s labor to begin.”

I couldn’t believe it.

But I’m sure Stacy could.

Hebrews tells us that, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It’s a good thing to trust God’s will, to acknowledge that what comes our way has been filtered through the hands of a loving Father. But I think perhaps we “mature” Christians give up too easily. That we need to hold fast to that which we pray for, to that which we long for. Maybe we need to be a bit more stubborn.

Like Stacy.

And like baby Cole.

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Izzy & Nina“Look at this one, Nina,” Isabelle said, pulling a large book from the tightly packed shelves. “The Man in the Moon,” she pronounced proudly. I smiled. At six-years-old, Isabelle has just learned to read, and the wonder of it is not lost on her. Or me.

When I picked her up after school today, she jumped into the van waving her library card. “Look what I brought!” So of course we headed to the library. On the way there, Isabelle read to me from a Junie B book. “They’re my favorite,” she said, pulling several more in the series out of her backpack.

My small town library is one of those remarkable places that nurtures wonder. And imagination. In the children’s area, you can enter the picturebook section by ducking through a small door in the wall. Along the windows stands a re-creation of the Polar Express, where kids can climb inside and settle down for a trip to the North Pole. A big checker board, with wooden snowflakes and clouds for pieces, sits on a table near a bank of computers.

I wasn’t sure which of us was having more fun.

Finally, Isabelle had made her choices. The Man in the Moon and Inside Outside Christmas (because “it’s always ok to read about Christmas”). Also tucked under her arm was Delia’s Dull Day—which I suspicioned was not going to be dull at all. She’d even chosen one for her two younger brothers: B is for Bulldozer.

At the checkout desk, she proudly presented her library card. I stood to the side, letting Isabelle handle the transaction on her own. The librarian scanned each book, then slid a piece of paper in the top one. “These will be due on March 11,” she said pleasantly as she handed the stack across the counter.

Isabelle stood there for a moment, a serious expression darkening her blue eyes. “I don’t really keep track of days,” she said matter-of-factly.

I assured the nice lady that the books would be returned in due time, and Isabelle and I headed back to the van with her armload of treasures.

But I couldn’t get those words out of my head: I don’t really keep track of days.

How long since I could say that? As a child, only a few days each year had been truly noteworthy: Christmas, my birthday, our annual 4-H trip to Coney Island Amusement Park. These were peaks, rising from the valley of contented play and daily chores.

Now my calendar is full. If I find a day with nothing written in, I assume I must have forgotten something. Appointments with the dentist and doctor. Lunch with friends. Deadlines. Church commitments. Family obligations and plans.

I keep track of days. Boy, do I!

And you probably do, too.

But maybe what the world needs is a few blank squares on calendars. A minor revolt against progress and performance. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field…” (Maybe I should pencil that in….) In our efficiency at filling our time, we forget how precious time is. We assume more is better, that even God will be impressed by our diligence and hustle.

I’m not sure He is.

God, who lives outside of time, is concerned with how we spend ours. “Be still, and know that I am God” (46:10). “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). He wants us to take time to ponder our days, to savor our hours, to resist the urge to overschedule.

Of course, we are all (more of less) grown-ups and, unlike Isabelle, we must keep track of days. But perhaps we can relax a bit.  Perhaps we can, with the Psalmist, thank God that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

Be still. That fits nicely in a few of the spaces left on my calendar.

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“Look what I found,” my sister Libby said, holding aloft a small yellowing index card.

For the last several days, I’d been helping my sister move into a cozy little house closer to me. We’d gone through box after box of “keepsakes” and old quilts and…well, junk.

I reached for the card. “Jam Cake” was written on the red line running across the top. The lines and ink had faded, but the words were still legible. And I knew the handwriting well — I’d received hundreds of letters in that same confident cursive. “It’s Mother’s recipe,” I said, taking the velvet-soft card from Libby’s hand.

Mother was most at home in the kitchen. She loved food…and feeding people. Nothing made her happier than piling a table with homemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes and gravy and corn-on-the-cob and hot biscuits and peach cobbler. The food was simple and hearty, perfect for the farm life we led.

But her jam cake was something special.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I seldom eat the cupcakes and sweet treats I make for my family. (Of course, I’d walk over crushed glass to get to warm chips and fresh salsa…) But as a child, I always looked forward to the jam cakes.

So that’s how I came to be in my kitchen, early last Saturday morning baking. The house was quiet and still. The snow outside deep and white. I pulled out the big white bowl, the one with bright tulips adorning the side. The one that I’d seen mother use a thousand times.

It will taste just like hers I thought as I assembled the ingredients for the jam cake.

5 eggs beaten – I lifted the Styrofoam lid and reached for the eggs. Mother’s would have been fresher, recently gathered from the hen house.

1 cup butter – I pulled two sticks out of the freezer and popped them into the microwave to soften. The butter Mother used didn’t come out of a cardboard wrapper; it came from milk we churned.

1 cup buttermilk – I laughed out loud to see that I’d bought low-fat buttermilk. Mother would be appalled.

And the jam. Mother’s would have come from the berries we picked during hot July days. Ruby raspberries, plump strawberries, wild blackberries scavenged from fencerows. Mine came from the grocery store. Smuckers black raspberry and blackberry jam.

Step by step I made the cake. Creaming the butter and gradually adding the sugar until “light and fluffy.” I skipped sifting the flour; I forgot to dissolve the soda in the buttermilk. I did dredge the raisins and nuts, making a floury mess on my counter.

And, lastly, I added the jam.

I wasn’t prepared for the transformation the batter would make. With each swirl of my spoon, the crimson jam spread across the bowl. And, suddenly, the batter was purple. Rich, royal purple. Mother’s favorite color.

I stared, the spoon suspended. Then, I could almost feel Mother’s hand press down on mine. “Finish it, Mary Lou. The oven’s nice and hot.”DSC06362

The older I get, the closer the past seems. Things I did, said, heard. People I loved, lost, laughed with. Hebrews 12:1 assures us that we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” — the faithful who are cheering us on.

It’s good to be encouraged. And to encourage others. Sometimes, it’s the best thing possible. Encouragement can make us more confident, happier. It can give us hope and spark new ideas and solutions to problems. It can make us kinder and taller (ok, maybe not taller).

jam cake cropYes, encouragement is good. Whether you’re running the race to heaven…or baking your mother’s jam cake.

BTW: It was delicious! jam cake cut

Here’s the recipe if you want to bake one yourself. I divided the batter into 3 layers.

MOTHER’S JAM CAKE

5 eggs beaten

2 c. sugar

3 c. flour

1 c. butter or shortening

1 c. buttermilk

1 t. soda; ¼ t. salt; ½ t. cinnamon; 1 ½ t. cloves; 1 ½ t. allspice

1 c. raisins

1 c. chopped nuts

1 c. jam

Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add well-beaten eggs. Sift flour before measuring and add spices and salt to it. Dissolve soda in buttermilk and add to flour mixture. Add mixture gradually to the egg sugar batter. Beat after each addition. Lightly dredge nuts and raisins with extra flour. Next add jam. Mix to get good distribution. Bake 2 layers @ 325 degrees until toothpick comes out clean. When cool, frost with crème cheese icing.

Debbie & ML cropIt began with a text, short and to the point. “Green or black. You choose.”

Green or black what?

Then I noticed that the question had come from my friend Debbie, and I knew some fun was afoot. “BLACK” I punched in. How could black not be the right answer? I love black. Half my closet is filled with black clothes and footwear. (Ok, 2/3 of my closet….)

Her reply text said: “A little surprise from New York. You are going to love it!”

If there’s one thing I love even more than Debbie, it’s New York. Now I could hardly wait to see what she was sending me! I watched the mail everyday, tossing aside ads and bills and newspapers, looking for a box with my name.

Finally it came…badly dented on the bottom and one side. Oh no! I picked it up (it was amazingly light) and shook it. No rattling—a good sign. Carefully I slit open the top and pulled aside the tissue paper. A hat! Debbie had sent me a hat! I pulled it out to see a lovely black felted wool hat with yellow flowers. HUGE yellow flowers clustered in happy proximity to each other on the front. One, two, three, FOUR of them. I laughed aloud. It was somewhere between chic and Dr. Seuss…and so very me!

I was quick to text my thanks, using lots of capital letters and exclamation marks. “There must be a story,” I said. When one writer sends another writer a present, there is always a story.

“I bought it from a street vendor in New York City,” Debbie said.

Now I loved it even more. I could imagine Debbie hustling down the street, hurrying to her next meeting or lunch with her publicist. Taxis honking, pedestrians bumping shoulders. And, suddenly, there it was, at a corner display of wares offered for sale. A “Mary Lou” hat. Black with sunny flowers. A happy spot of color amid the wash of concrete and sidewalks and dirty snow. I can see Debbie pausing, inquiring the price, digging (with gloved fingers) in her purse for the cash and then continuing on with the newly-acquired bag

Surprises. Who doesn’t love them? Especially when they come from the hand of an old friend who knows you well. Admittedly, though, some surprises are less than welcome. A flat tire. Those three pounds you gained over the weekend. A sore throat. But life, by its very nature, is filled with surprises. We open newspapers and websites and birthday presents, unsure what we’ll find inside. We don’t know what waits around the corner—both literally and metaphorically.

When I was a teen-ager, my friend Melva and I used to sing duets in church. She’d take the melody line, and I’d improvise an alto part. The chorus to one of those songs proclaimed: “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.”

That’s the basis of Christian hope. Not that we are given infinite sight, not that we can see all the bumps in the road or around the curves. We’re given, instead, a Traveling Companion. One who sends us surprises…and sunrises…and strength when what we get is not what we want. One who rejoices with us and mourns with us. One who will never surprise us by leaving us to our own devices—or our just deserts.

Yes, I have a new hat. It arrived when the temperature was -15 and the snow was knee-deep. I was in desperate need of something to warm my insides, to make my heart happy, to encourage me to smile. The timing couldn’t have been better.

But knowing God—and Debbie—that doesn’t surprise me.

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DSC00713Last Sunday our church choir sang, “In the Bleak Midwinter.” It was lovely, really. The voices blended beautifully and the trumpet accompaniment was clear and haunting. But what made it the perfect piece is that it really IS bleak and winter here. We are smack-dab in the middle of cold winds and gray skies, of frozen ground and stark, brittle trees. Even the snow on the ground has turned dirty and unfit for sledding or snowman-building.

As many of you know, “In the Bleak Midwinter” is based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rosetti. It became a Christmas carol when Gustav Holst set it to music and published it in The English Hymnal in 1906, almost 35 years after Rosetti had penned it.

The power of the poem is in its imagery, but also in its theology. Christ, adored by seraphim and cherubim, is now nuzzled by puzzled oxen—while his mother worships Him with a kiss. Heaven’s loss is our gain. Isn’t a response called for? Rosetti seems to think so:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,                                                         DSC00776
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him… give my heart.

Yes, it is midwinter. And undeniably bleak in many ways. Of course, it can’t always be Christmas; we can’t always romp in a marshmallow world of unspoiled white. But again and again the Bible makes it clear that there is merit in trial and persistence and—dare I say it?—suffering. These things strengthen our resolve and teach us to trust in Someone smarter and stronger than we are. They also remind us to keep walking toward a place where pain will never make an appearance. C.S. Lewis says it well:

“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy…Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”

So I’ll put on another pair of socks and that hat with the furry earflaps. I’ll light more candles and drink more hot tea. I’ll remember that God created winter for a reason, that rest and rhythm are part of His plan for all creation. I’ll cause a little merriment for other folks and soak up what splashes back on me. I’ll sweep the bleakness from my heart and offer it once again to the Christchild.

I feel warmer already….

Enjoy the Choir of King’s College-Cambridge singing, “In the Bleak Midwinter.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0aL9rKJPr4

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photo brock cropThe Saturday before Christmas, my grandson Brock and I loaded up several shopping bags with presents and set out to play Santa. The gifts were for three children we’d never met, children whose father was incarcerated in the local county jail.

I had taken Brock with me to shop for Gabriel and Jordan and Hope. Their father had offered gift suggestions on the form he’d filled out. Sports stuff for the boys. A doll and art things for the girl. Carefully Brock and I had perused the aisles at K-Mart.

“How much can we spend?” Brock asked, fingering the balls and bats and soccer gloves.

“About $20 each,” I said.

His eyes widened. “Nina, it’s not enough!”

I had explained to Brock that the kids’ father could not buy presents for them this year, that he couldn’t even be there to provide food or pay the bills. Brock was set to deliver a truckload of presents to make up for that.

“Let’s look for some deals and see what we spend.”

So now here we were, wearing Santa hats and driving toward an address in a nearby town. Brock was excited to be part of this process, proud that we’d bought soccer balls and footballs, an over-the-door basketball net. Things he himself played with. He’d been pleased, too, with the drawing tablets and colored pencils and Barbie doll we’d gotten for Hope.

I’d talked to the mother on the phone and arranged to drop off the gifts at 9 a.m. We pulled into the parking lot of an old apartment complex shortly after that. We grabbed the bags, straightened our Santa hats and headed for the address on the form. The porch was littered with leaves…and a dozen unopened newspapers. I hope they haven’t moved! I thought as we knocked on the door. And knocked again. No response, although I did see a light on inside.

“Maybe they went to McDonald’s for breakfast,” Brock said. I smiled. That’s what we’d done on the way here.

“Let’s go back to the car and wait.”

Ten minutes later we tried again, pounding on the door this time. Nothing.

Back in the car, Brock expressed frustration. “How can she not be here when she knew we were coming?”

How could I explain to Brock that not everyone kept appointments…or even track of time? That some lives were jumbled and troubled and untidy? I could hear Brock fidgeting in the back seat. I knew he had a birthday party to attend later this morning and no doubt had begun to worry about being late.

“We’ll just wait another 10 minutes,” I said.

Just then a cab pulled up and a woman got out. She headed across the frozen grass in the direction of the apartment where we’d been knocking in vain. I stepped outside and called out the mother’s name. Her head turned at once. “We’re here to deliver presents for the children.”

Brock and I again gathered the bags, and she met us on the sidewalk. She smiled down at Brock, his Santa hat now slightly askew. “Are you Santa’s helper?” Brock nodded and smiled back, his snaggle-toothed grin young and innocent.

Suddenly she reached out for me, enveloping me in a hug. “Thank you. Thank you.”

“There’s a little something for you in there, too,” I said, thinking of the book and box of candy I’d wrapped.

The bags exchanged hands and Brock and I turned back to the car. “I hope you get everything you want for Christmas,” she called.

Brock stopped and turned back to wave at the solitary figure standing on the sidewalk, bright ribbons and wrapping peaking out of the bags she was holding.

We climbed into the van and buckled up for the trip home.

“Well, that was worth waiting for!” Brock said.

That was worth waiting for.

Those words stayed with me all week as I waited for Christmas, for Advent, for the coming of Christ into the bleak mid-winter. How many others had felt that joy, that relief, that excitement? The shepherds, the Wisemen, Anna and Simeon at the temple. Mary herself. Messiah has come! The prophets have been fulfilled! Everything will be different now!

That was worth waiting for.

Today I will pack away my Christmas decorations—all except the candles that burn brightly in my windows, waiting for the Wisemen to arrive on Epiphany. My thoughts will turn to work deadlines and church commitments, to throwing out the last of the sugar cookies and doing laundry. But I will keep a ripple of joy, a surge of anticipation beneath it all, fed by the fact that the Christ who came as a baby will come again as a King. The sky will split and glory will engulf all the faithful. How can we not be ready when we know He’s coming?

Of course, the details of the Second Coming are hidden, opaque. No one knows when…or quite how. But this one thing I do know: It is so worth waiting for!

drake,brock,mace-dec 2013Yesterday, my 5-year-old grandson Mace (that’s him in the picture, between his older brothers) asked his mother to Google “Santa.”

“Why?” asked Amy Jo.

“To see if he’s real.”

When I was five years old, we didn’t have Google. Or CNN. We barely had television. The go-to place for information was that pinnacle of knowledge, THE BRITANNICA ENCYCLOPEDIA. In thousands of homes, these volumes stood proudly on bookshelves, their leather spines showing all the world just how serious and superior they were.

My family didn’t have a set of encyclopedias…and it really bothered my mother. Even on the installment plan offered by door-to-door salesmen, we couldn’t afford it. Then one day when I got home from school, there it lay in all its glory—a creamy white volume with gold lettering and a giant “A” on its cover. The beginning of our own encyclopedia set.

“They’re offering them at the grocery store,” Mother said, almost breathless with excitement. “A different volume every few weeks.”

I watched that line of faux leather spines creep across the old bookcase in our living room. Week by week I lost myself if the articles and pictures inside those covers. I knew these were not the top-of-the-line A-team encyclopedias, but they seemed magical to me. Who knew the tomato was a fruit?

My grandchilden would no doubt think it odd to look for information only in books. A click of a mouse and the world opens up to them (no bookcase needed). They will know more and wonder more and explore more than I ever did. And if they are persistent and wise, they will learn that facts, while useful, are limited. That some things can only be understood with the heart and the spirit.

I can’t help being pleased (relieved!) that it was Santa and not Jesus Mace wanted to Google. Someday that red-suited jolly old elf will pass into Mace’s childhood; my grandson will “put away childish things.” It’s good to know that that need never happen with the Christ of Christmas. He will always be there for Mace (and you and me), a baby grown into a Savior. A truth that transcends Google.

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photoLast week was Thanksgiving, and my family celebrated with a raucous, rowdy, ridiculously wonderful day. How could it be otherwise with 13 kids under the age of 10?

My sister Libby and I cooked for days—all the traditional favorites. Turkey and crock pot stuffing (we seasoned it with sage we’d harvested and dried from our own garden), roast beef and tender carrots, mashed potatoes and corn casserole and salads and a whole counter of pies. Yum!

For the first time we had a “grown-up” table and a “kids” table. I added folding tables to the dining room table to create a looooong table where 18 adults sat elbow-to-elbow talking and feasting. A short distance away in the kitchen, 12 cousins crowded around the table, eyeing the desserts even as their mothers filled their plates with meat and veggies. (The 13th child was my great niece, Eve, who was only a week old. She was sweetly swaddled in a soft blanket and content with her bottle.)

But my favorite thing about the day had nothing to do with the food or the table arrangements. My daughter, Amy Jo, had positioned two chalkboards in the living room. Each person was asked to write (or draw or dictate) something he or she was grateful for. The adult side was fairly predictable: health, family, job. But the kids’ lists were more insightful. My grandson Mace was thankful for “me.” My great nephew Finn was so overwhelmed by the aromas and array of dishes that he simply wrote: “FOOD.” And, of course, every cousin was thankful for every other cousin! But what impressed me most was how many of the kids listed “God” as something they were most grateful for. And not one adult mentioned Him.

photo[1]Children are never far from my thoughts. (Some people think I’m still 10 years old.) I can never spend an hour with a child without learning something new, without having my stiff adult perspective challenged or rearranged. So I shouldn’t be surprised that it took the kids to remind the adults that GOD is at the heart of all we have to be thankful for—including each other.

And while God loves each of us equally, I do think He is partial to children. After all, when He wanted to show us how to live, how to return to Him in perfect union…he sent a Child.IMG_7823

AJ,Stacy,MLMy daughter-in-law Stacy is expecting a baby (her fourth!), and last weekend we gave her a “reveal” party. Have you heard about these? Instead of simply looking at the imaging or reading the report and pulling out their cell phones, couples now elect to “announce” the sex of their baby with a party.

Our party was filled with more suspense than most, because even Stacy and Brett had elected not to find out beforehand. Everyone wore the color of their prediction: pink if you thought it was going to be a girl, blue for a boy. A hundred pink and blue balloons floated on the floor of the dining and family rooms. Two chalkboards near the front door recorded the tally: 22 votes for girl; 22 votes for boy.

Half the people were going to be right.

My daughter Amy Jo, Stacy and I were on the girl team. My husband, Gary, thought it was going to be a girl, but refused to wear pink. Brett was the self-elected captain of the boy team.

We ate chili (we had 6 different kinds!) and hot dogs, chips and veggies, iced sugar cookies. The answer to the question burning in everyone’s mind lay inside a HUGE sheet cake. If the filling were blue…boy. If it were pink, we’d be getting a baby girl. (Just for the record: This family is way boy-heavy.)

cake“Cut the cake!” someone yelled. And soon we all took up the chant. Brett and Stacy stood beside the cake, knife poised just above the thick white icing. “Twinkle, twinkle little star…How we wonder what you are,” the cake read. We wouldn’t have to wonder much longer.

The knife plunged. People pushed forward, straining to see. Rumors began flying around the room. “It’s a boy!” “It’s a girl!”

Brett slid the server under a piece and pulled it out, lifting the pile of white cake high above his head. The filling was clearly blue.DSC06335

It’s a boy.

Reveal. Such a powerful word, a word filled with promise. What you didn’t know, you’ll know. The mystery will be revealed. That which lingered in the darkness will be pulled into the light. Nothing is quite the same after that moment of revelation.

There have been times in my life when I’d like to have a “reveal” party of my own. And the only guest I’d invite would be…God. I’d make a list of questions beforehand—plenty of mysteries I’d like solved by the Great I Am. Quirky and tragic things in my life that need a little commentary.

“Now we see through a glass, darkly,” the Apostle Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 13:12). And it’s true—even when I put on my glasses and rub the pane with Windex, I can’t see things clearly. Maybe that’s what faith is all about. Living with the smudges, trusting that the One who does have perfect vision is working things out…perfectly.

Our new addition will arrive in March. That will make seven grandchildren for me — 6 boys and 1 girl. I have no idea what the future will hold for this precious boy child or for those of us he will call family. But this I do know: All will be revealed…one day at a time. And all will be well.

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