God plans work best

“Sometimes I just feel so ditzy,” Sharon said. “I try to keep a planner of everything. As the Children’s Ministry Director, I keep track of meetings that might need child care. I contact people ahead of time to find out who can serve. For some meetings, I call the mothers I think might come to ask if they need child care this time. I write everything down in the planner.”

I still mess up.”

“Last week there was a Bible study meeting for a group of ladies. I thought I knew who would be there. I thought of a couple mothers who might bring their children. When one sent me a text to cancel childcare, I checked with the others to see if they needed child care. Each one had other plans for their children, so I called the child care workers to say we would not need a nursery this time.”

“The day of the event, I learned that more mothers had decided to come and bring their children! I needed child care workers! I found out one teenager had shown up. Apparently I had mentioned this date a month ago, and she wrote it in her planner. I had not confirmed or canceled her for the schedule, so she showed up. She is CPR certified, so that was fine, but I knew I needed a second childcare worker.” 

            “I told Eli, 14, to hurry up and get ready. We all went to church, where I saw one of the workers I thought I had told she didn’t need to come. I was almost completely sure I had texted to tell her we did not need child care. Of course, I was happy to see her, though!’

Since she was there, Eli would not be as needed, but since she was there, we now had more than two teachers in the childcare room. One teacher at a time could take a break, step out of the classroom, and the children would still have plenty of helpers.

Eli left to go to the men’s washroom. Good thing he did. The ceiling leaked.

He found me, “Hey, there is water coming down from the ceiling in the men’s room.”

I went to check it out,” Sharon said. “The water was coming down fast. The sprinkler system had a leak.”

I went to find the church secretary to see if she knew who to contact. She did. We have a contract with a company that installed them, to come back and fix the problem.

            Amazingly, that company was just right around the corner! They were able to come out to check out the leak. 

They came and fixed it quickly.

This was all on Thursday. Usually no one is at the church on Friday and no one would have known about the leak for two days. Because Eli was there, he went into the men’s room, saw the leak, and it was repaired. He was there because I thought I had canceled all the child care workers and we needed someone to stay with the children.

Just thinking about the events, Sharon shook her head in wonder. “because I thought we did not need the workers, I canceled the child care. Because one of the workers did not get the message, I had enough workers. Because I thought I did not have enough workers, Eli came to help supervise the children. Because he was in the building, he saw the leak that otherwise would have gone unnoticed, and we would have had water damage.

Because the leak was found early, it was fixed and the church did not have any water damage. My carefully worked plans failed. God had other plans. Even when I’m a ditz, all things work together for the good.

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Covid in Indonesia

Mert and his wife, Sheila, planned to visit her Indonesian family the end of July. In June, Sheila’s mother succumbed to cancer. Between re-scheduling their flight, getting a Covid test and visa, they could not leave until left after the funeral.

They both tested negative for Covid (Of course! Both had been vaccinated), so they could fly internationally. Indonesia welcomed them with another Covid test before allowing them to go a hotel that caters to incoming passengers who must undergo a mandatory quarantine. International passengers to Indonesia are tested, quarantined and tested again before they can leave the hotel – if they are negative. Mert’s Facebook postings during quarantine showed trays of perfectly arranged meals of Indonesian and American food.  

Finally, their quarantine ended and the couple went to mourn and remember with relatives. They also did a bit of sightseeing, according to the Facebook postings.

Only reports of Detroit areas “storm of the century” flooding their basement tarnished their visit to Indonesia. A friend back home sent them pictures of the water at the foot of the stairs to the basement. 

“I won’t know how bad it is until I get home,” Mert wrote.

            It was all fun and games until the lab tech came for another mandatory Covid test before they flew home. Mert passed (of course, he was fully vaccinated.) Sheila did not. (How was that possible? She had at least one vaccination!) Other family members tested positive, too.

            “Jakarta is a prime place for Covid to breed,” Mert said. “It is crowded. People sit or stand around the front of every building.”  Quarantine descended on Sheila and her family. Mert was allowed to go to the airport and back home to check on the damage to their home.

Back home, Mert looked down the steps at sopping wet cardboard boxes, books and papers, water-marked appliances. Their washer, dryer, dehumidifier, furnace and hot water heater were ruined. “Inside the house it is about 75 percent humid.The wooden frame absorbed water from the humid basement,” he said.

Concerned friends came to haul the wet, ruined items to the curb. The city agreed to accept the same heaps of trash that his neighbors had left weeks earlier. Hauling trash after a long international flight was tiring. Initially, Mert attributed his nagging cough to tiredness until it worsened. He went to the clinic. He had both the rapid and PCR tests for Covid. He tested positive. 

Contract tracers needed every flight he took and person he had encountered. Helpful friends received notification that he had tested positive for Covid.  

Meanwhile in Jakarta, Sheila used her phone to watch the flow of household activities in the states thanks to the security system they had installed. “So many people coming and going,” she said.

“And thank you, Lord, they came. I did not have to clean out that basement all by myself.” he said. A friend of a friend brought over a commercial dehumidifier and an air mover to put in the basement. Within days he reported, “I can see dry spots on the floor.”

Folks hauled out trash and delivered food. They checked on Mert regularly. Despite having a cough and some congestion, Mert never slowed down. He called the insurance company, made an appointment to have the furnace checked and assessed the need for new washer and dryer.

The insurance company knew that the storm of the century had flooded homes in the area. “This surpasses your deductible. We will send you a check.”

His employers told him to stay home and collect Covid sick pay. More time to work in the basement while waiting for his wife get home and go shopping for new appliances. Not the summer they planned, but it was the summer they had. “Change of plans,” is the ringing anthem of people around the globe since the outbreak of Covid; still the world turns.

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The Cat Knows

Oscar the cat entered a nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island as a kitten to become a therapy cat. Folks enjoyed watching him. He did not like anyone petting him. Everyone said Oscar did not like to be close to people – until the day they realized he took naps next to patients near death.

The dying rarely noticed Oscar on the bed. The staff always did. If a closed door kept him out, Oscar paced and fretted at the door. Nurses who spot Oscar sleeping with a patient called the family, “If you want to have a time to say good-bye, you need to come now.”

Staff doctor Dr. David Dosa wrote the book, Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.No one can explain why Oscar responds this way to the dying. Some speculate the biochemicals of the dying cells or the stillness of the body attract him. They do know he has predicted over 100 deaths.

Oscar is not the only cat that visits dying patients. My friend’s father passed recently. At the visitation, my friend mentioned the nursing home’s cat Bella. Like Oscar, when a woman reached out to pet Bella, she walked away, “She is not a people cat,” the woman observed.

“When I went on the weekends to see Dad, I never saw the cat in his room. When I took Dad out to the courtyard, she might be there. I saw her at the front playing or laying around. I never saw Bella in any room. Aides said Bella only goes into the room of one resident who feeds her.”

Recently, the family received the call, “Your Daddy may live another 12 to 72 hours.” Her sister and brother began packing to come to town. Her sister stayed overnight with Dad.

“Bella came into the room and hopped up on my sister’s lap. Through the night Bella was in and out of his room and the room across the hall with another Hospice patient.”

One night as they chatted on the phone, the sister laughed, “And here comes Bella down the hall.” Having read the Oscar book, the sister mentioned the similarities to the staff. “We have noticed that when people get close to dying, Bella comes in and settles into a nearby chair,” staff agreed.

Other cats that live at the nursing homes do not join either Bella or Oscar. They lack the hyper-sensitivity to the process of dying. One time nurses nudged Oscar to go to a dying patient. Oscar snubbed that patient and went to another person who died first.

“Bella never got in my dad’s bed. She went by Dad’s bed, looked up at it, jumped in my sister’s lap and sat. The entire time that Dad was going through the struggles of passing. Bella would come in during the night. When I talked with my sister she said, ‘Bella came in. She is here sleeping on my lap.’”

The sisters told their brother about Bella the cat. “A cat in a nursing home?” he was astonished. The brother arrived shortly before his father passed.

“Bella walked in right before my dad passed.” my friend said. As the siblings talked, Bella turned around in her chair, reached up and clawed at something near the wall. When Bella stopped he unusual behavior, they looked at dad.

“I think Dad has passed,” the sister said.

“Maybe Bella was reaching up to an angel….”

When the family returned to gather up their dad’s things, Bella walked in for a final visit. No reason except she is the cat who comes to visit during the passing of souls from this life to the next.

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HGTV and the bibliophile

    Something always seemed missing at the conclusion of every HGTV home makeover. Something besides the lack of color in the neutral white, gray and black living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms. The perfect furniture, flooring, walls, fixtures and appliances leave the new owners gasping in awe. I watch and always wonder, “why am I not impressed?”

Then, one day I realized: they forgot the books. No matter how closely I study the beautiful layouts, I find no books. Not a single book let alone stacks or shelves of books. If they have children, don’t bother to look for scattered collections of children’s books in baskets and on bookshelves. Although I see no huge tomes on laying around, I do see huge letters on the walls assuring me they do know the alphabet.

The shows end with the home owners gasping in awe at rooms barren of reading material. Perhaps the books hide in the rooms that I recently learned that the producers do not show: the rooms containing the family’s unsightly excess. I object. To me, books are eye candy. This past year my penchant for books resulted in an overflow that vastly challenges the ideal of a clutter-free home.

Without constant attention, books quickly clutter my home – especially the living room. Last year we gave away our piano and within a week (quite unplanned) replaced it with three full bookshelves. The folks on HGTV would roll their eyes at the stacks of dusty, old books I brought home when a church emptied its 100 year old library.

I did not take all of them. Just 10 or 15 boxes I wanted to consider for keeping, reading or selling. Trying to understand the value of old books, I discovered the Facebook page Vintage, Rare and Antique Books (VRAB). It features pictures of my kind of eye candy.

VRAB makes my overflow if books look like a trickle of water in a desert. HGTV producers would have an apoplectic fit at the mass of mis-matched bookshelves in some people’s homes. The producers of Hoarders would think they had another potential show when reviewing one individual’s hundreds of first editions and rare books. Pictures online depict row after long row of high shelves with neatly arranged and categorized books. My shelves may overflow, but my fellow bibliophile’s house overflows with heavily loaded and carefully arranged bookshelves.

A member of VRAB commented, “I wish I had encountered that last week. Instead I sorted through over 900 books.” He posted a picture of 4x4x4 bins of jumbled together books. I saw similar bins when we visited thrift stores in Destin, Florida, looking for Bibles last winter. In one shop, an employee said, “After a while, they just take the bin out and throw them into the dumpster.”

Reminds me of that phrase in Ecclesiates, “of the writing of many books there is no end.” Written centuries before the invention of the printing press enabled mass production, the truth has only multiplied.

All books cannot be saved, thus VRAB. It provides a vehicle for connecting owners and searchers of older books. Some folks like me, have a few books we keep and cherish forever. Others want books they hope someone else found. Some simply want to show pictures of their treasures. My treasures include the rotating hoard of children’s books I find at yard sales. At times my stash has included those so loved that they would never make it into a room on a house makeover. My old, beloved books never will generate the same kind of wonder as a freshly redone room on HGTV, but books capture the attention of this bibliophile every time.

 

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Chocolate chips

It began with chocolate chips in the waffles the grand kids brought to Granny camp.

“Chocolate chips in waffles?” Granny raised her eyebrows.

“Oh yeah!” each kid said and grabbed one or two every day until none remained.

Granny camp came in shifts this year. The first two visitors decided to make cookies. “We need chocolate chips.”

Granny produced the chips. Sophie (13) and Caroline (12) studied the package. “Do you have cocoa powder so we can make chocolate chocolate chip cookies?”

Granny pointed out the dark brown can on the shelf.

Undeterred by the fact that the ingredients sat on the second highest shelf, the pint sized granddaughter went to work. She dragged a chair over to the counter, used it to climb onto the counter where she opened doors to find sugar, shortening, flour and vanilla. The climber handed canisters and bottles down to the cousin on the floor. She climbed down. They began measuring and mixing. Soon the aroma of chocolate filled the air. The chocolate chocolate chip cookies covered the cooling racks and filled the girls’ tummies. Granny tucked the cookies out of sight. No one needs to eat that many cookies in a day. Not even for a snack during the Murphy Art District Monday night free movie.

A couple days later the Cousin Camp crowd shifted. Meals and snacks included chocolate chocolate chip cookies until Sam (10) and Henry (8) came like a whirlwind. They liked the chocolate chip waffles and welcomed ice cream with flakes of chocolate sprinkled throughout.

Camp membership shifted once again. A couple of cousins came, “I want to have a tea party,” the youngest, Katie (5), announced.

“Sure, but first let’s go watch the MAD Monday night movie.” They packed up corn chips, drinks and leftover chocolate chocolate chips cookies.

The next day, Granny pulled out the china tea set with the gold rim. “Okay, would you like to make cookies for the party?”

“Yes, I want chocolate chip cookies.”

Granny bought more chocolate chips. Someone added twice as many eggs as required so all the other ingredients had to be doubled. Granny cut up chocolate candy bars for additional chips. She handed Sam (10) the stainless steel hand crank mixer. “You liked using this mixing air, try it with cookie dough.”

He cheerfully accepted the challenge. “It’s a lot harder!”

“Make it all one smooth color. Do you want to use the electric mixer?”

“No.” He continued to crank.

By the time his cousins added all the flour and the chocolate chips everyone welcomed the electric mixer. A double batch of chocolate chip cookies provided more than enough for three or four tea parties. Granny packed up cookies for the children to take home.

Half of the campers left. Granny camp moved to the home of Daisy (10) and Katie. The first morning, the Katie chose yogurt for breakfast and said. “I want chocolate chips in my yogurt.”

Her older sister climbed up on the counter and grabbed the bag of hidden chocolate chips. Little sister eagerly ate yogurt with chocolate chips. Granny insisted both try citrus fruit salad. They politely ate a bit. A lot remained.

“We could make a pineapple upside down cake with the leftovers,” Granny said.

“Yes!” Daisy pulled out the flour, sugar, shortening and baking powder. She left the chocolate chips in the cupboard. Big sister read the recipe and measured. Little sister dumped. Both took turns stirring.

For dessert on the last day of Granny Camp they ate pineapple upside-down cake without any chocolate chips. Both asked for another piece for breakfast the next day and never mentioned chocolate chips.  With all those desserts, Cousin Camp 2021 was pretty sweet.

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Sports Announcer

 I surprised at least one friend when I posted, “WPS a runaway game. NC needed the mercy rule. 21 runs for Arkansas to their 2.”

“I never would have guessed you were a baseball fan,” wrote my former co-worker John.

“We were traveling. I kept hubby updated as he drove,” I answered.

Initially I didn’t realize I had married a sports fan. With no TV, poor radio reception and lots of children to supervise, we did not need to import crowd noise.

I knew my Hoosier bred and born hubby loved basketball. He worked long hours at the lab yet found time to take the boys to games, put up a hoop and checked the scores. Although I came from a family of basketball players, following my first college basketball game, my roommate observed, “You looked bored.”

“I was.” I never returned. I focused on books, sewing, music and family.

Then one day, he hauled the radio outside.

“Why are you doing that?”

“I want to hear the game.”

And that began the evolution of our home from no games and no TV home to black and white and eventually a large, modern, flat screen. During games I often escape to the sewing room. Doesn’t bother him, he stands in the door during games to announce scores and amazing plays.

I nod, snip threads and rev the machine.

Razorback football hardly warranted any TV time last fall. “Ahh, they will never get it right.” “Come on. Hold onto that ball.” “We need another coach.”

Razorback basketball reached the Sweet Sixteen, and he glowed.

Then came this year’s Razorback baseball team with one victory after another. “This pitcher is incredible,” hubby gushed. “They may start out slow but they usually end up winning,” he said repeatedly.

Too busy to leave my lounge chair, I accepted the ball game as background noise with the occasional excited command, “You gotta watch this replay.”

The ball flew across the plate. Sometimes a bat caught it. Someone caught it. I nodded and returned to my project.

This spring we took several trips during important games with little or no radio reception.

During the tense play-offs with New Jersey IT the radio failed. “Usually I would root for them as the Cinderella team, but I really want the Razorbacks to win,” my sometimes sports fan declared.

He fiddled with the controls. I cringed at annoyingly loud, static radio broadcasts until I heard nothing intelligent. Using my cell phone, I found a site with online, live statistics.

“They made a run,” I read aloud. For the next couple hours I tapped the phone every few minutes and reported the latest score as he drove. The NJIT wins took the Razorbacks to the super regional playoffs. The first game found the two of us traveling in the deep woods. He drove, I read the stats.

“Does this little diamond with dots show players on base?”

“Yes.”

I quickly deciphered the terse comments as the Razorbacks scored run after run.

“They need the Mercy Rule,” I said proud that I knew it meant the officials should say, “You win.”

“They don’t do that in college,” he said.

The Razorbacks won 21-2 against the North Carolina TarHeels on Friday. My cell phone provided the stats for the game on Saturday. We were home in time for the TV announcers on Sunday. I bet the Razorbacks wished they could have carried over a couple of those runs for those games. They lost 5-6 and 3-2.

That ended my season as announcer. I may not love the game, but I do love my guy, and he really wanted to know the score.

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The giving spirit

The impulse to give sweeps over a child and they find a gift.

For my two year old, venturing out that spring day, the cheerful daffodils burst forth with color right at his level. As I chatted with the neighbor who planted the crocuses, he grabbed a daffodil in his little fist and pulled. The green stem yielded. He triumphantly toddled over and presented the flower to me.

I smiled with regret at the gift, “Thank you. It’s pretty, but we must not pick our friend’s flowers.” The old gardener never said a word. As a great-grandmother, she knew children.

As did the mother of Tyler, our three year old great-grandson. He came into the kitchen as I sat at the counter inspecting the colorful gift bag of treats she had given me and the Mother’s Day Card. “We are late and I didn’t get it mailed, but we were thinking about you,” she laughed when she handed it to me.

“No worry,” I said and opened the card.

That’s when Tyler walked in. He saw the card and bag in front of me and figured it out, “it’s your birthday?! I have a present for you,” he declared so excited to celebrate a birthday.

He walked over to the corner, climbed up on the counter and grabbed a wooden stand holding the outline of a dinosaur.

“I painted it for you,” he asserted handing me the blotchy colored piece of wood. He had used every paint color available to him that day The colors ran together into a purple swirl of colors.

“Happy birthday,” he was so proud to give me a craft he made all by himself. I laid it beside the bag of treats to take home.

Before we reached home, we stopped at my son’s house where Henry, 8, just celebrated his birthday. Flush with birthday money, he insisted he wanted to buy sweets for his family. His mother negated the bags of candy but okayed the purchase of one box of ice cream bars. Henry proudly handed one each of his siblings, his dad and his grandparents. “He always wants to spend his money on others,” his mom said.

I already had a hint of that. On the kitchen window ledge I have a tiny, plastic trophy and a tiny, plastic toy fish tank from Henry. The trophy declares me the number one Grandmother. The hand-size tank reflects his desire to share his fascination with the unique toy with us. I placed the dinosaur beside them.

I don’t keep every child’s gift on display. Some I store in a drawer of mementos. One I received years ago. During a visit, Basil silently held out a green yarn monster with blue sponge feet that he had made at church. He never explained. He simply handed it to me very seriously. I still have it.

I only have the picture of the day I came home from the hospital ready to introduce the new baby boy to his big brothers. All the boys gathered around. I wondered how the two-year-old would react to no longer being the baby. After all he still clung to a nightgown he had claimed as his comforter on sad days.

The baby stretched, opened his eyes, looked around and began crying. The two-year-old stared, turned and ran to get what the baby needed. He returned with the bright red nighty. Wordlessly, he thrust it at the newborn and watched expectantly waiting for the baby to calm.

That’s when I knew this big brother would be okay. He had quickly given his most cherished item as freely as only a loving child does when they feel that impulse to give.

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Remembering Forrest

 An hour before meeting for lunch with my husband’s oldest brother Forrest he called. “I got Marie up but she is not responding.”

“Sounds like you need a doctor,” I said.

Forrest called. An ambulance took his wife Marie to the hospital where she stayed a couple weeks receiving treatment for a severe infection.

“We will meet for lunch next time,” we said. Then Forrest contracted Covid. Maybe he was exposed while working at the food pantry. Maybe he caught it when he delivered vehicles for dealerships. It doesn’t matter. Covid sent him to the hospital for a month. Finally we received news of his transfer to rehab to rebuild his strength.

A few days later, early in the afternoon, the next older brother Frank called, “Forrest had to go back to the hospital.”

“That does not sound good,” my husband observed.

Within hours Frank called back, “Forrest died.”

Not the outcome we anticipated for the brother who defied his doctors after heart surgery and shrugged off his prescribed medication, “I don’t need that stuff,”

He survived and kept active. Some concluded, “He is just too stubborn to die.”

His health, energy and stubbornnes meant his wife could stay home. Years ago she fell and broke her neck. As a paraplegic she could answer the phone, cook, do dishes and laundry and supervise the home schooling of a couple grandchildren. Still she depended on him every day for help getting up and going anywhere. When the infection cleared she left the hospital with many prescriptions.

Forrest brushed aside the necessity of the hospital. He insisted, “I usually catch the signs of infection and give her vitamin C I just missed it this time.”

After she returned home, he shoved aside the prescriptions and gave her massive doses of Vitamin C several times a day to finish clearing the infection. That same medical assertiveness challenged the nurses during his Covid hospitalization. Other than oxygen and some help, he knew what he needed. He had been right about his wife and his heart. Why wouldn’t he be right about what he needed for Covid?

No oneh told Forrest what he needed to do and he lived to see his 85th birthday. He lived to see six adopted children grow up and have children and grandchildren of their own.

He left us all with a mixture of memories.

“He had such a good hearty laugh. I am smiling just thinking about it,” my daughter recalled. No matter what time it was, he always greeted folks loudly with his signature, “Good morning.”

“He called all of Dad’s kids, ‘George,’” my son recalled.

In the days after the phone call, my husband mused, “he sang baritone and competed in musical competitions in high school. After high school, Forrest, Frank and a couple of friends formed a quartet and made a record. When the friends moved away, Forrest singing career ended.”

Such a contrast to his work as a heavy equipment contractor including years of fixing and cleaning septic systems. His work with sewer lines took him to a convention in Tennessee with his wife, son and his son’s bride. They left right after the young couple’s wedding. They all traveled together to the sewer system workers convention in an RV. Not a typical honeymoon. But it fit Forrest and his family. He was a character. He was loud, hard and stubborn with a voice that carried music and confident assertions on everything. It is a voice we will not hear across the table the next time we visit the old home town.

 

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Sunday School time

 A second grader wandered into Sunday School with fuzzy cloth kitten ears perched pertly on her head. She looked at the teacher and said, “Meeow.”

The teacher looked up and waited for the child to sit down. Kitten sat, reached for an activity sheet and insistently purred, “Meeoow!”

“You have cat ears,” the teacher observed. Kitten smiled and did not meow again. She joined another generation of elementary aged children whose parents had decided to make Jesus a priority in their lives. 

The class comes with mixed abilities. Some read easily. Others need help. Typically girls work quietly on worksheets and sit while listening to the lesson. Recently, two girls connected the dot-to-dot picture of robes that the Bible character Dorcas made and then spontaneously designed unique patterns for each. Boys hastily finish the worksheets and use the time and space to draw superheroes and video game characters.

Often one eager little girl recognized the story of the week and burst out telling her one minute version. That may have been all the third grade boy remembered. During story time he slid off his chair and under it, pulled himself up and straddled it for five minutes before tipping over sideways. 

One week, two visitors entered. Same size, same age, same dark blonde hair. The taller one asked, “Can you read?”

“Yes,” the second visitor shrugged, of course she could read. She was in second grade after all.

“I can’t.” the questioner declared, astonishing everyone.

In years to come, the non-reader advanced to the fourth grade unable to read. She could only watch during simple Bible drills where children are challenged, “Find Genesis. That’s the first book of the Bible.” or “Find Revelations. That’s the very last book of the Bible.” Others flipped easily to the front and back and pointed to the word Genesis or Revelations. She watched.

Another child with more advanced reading skills abruptly changed the class routine one Sunday. The teacher said, “find the story of the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4. Look for the big number eight and the little bitty number 4.” Having the children do this emphasizes that the lesson comes from the Bible. Usually, after the passage is found, the teacher presents the story, but not that week. That week the third grader began reading the passage aloud. She read the entire story as the teachers listened with raised eyebrows. After that the children read the scripture for the week’s story.

Sometimes acting out part of the story helps focus attention. Before the lesson on David and Goliath each student received a sticky paper wad to toss at the wall marked with Goliath’s height. Sticky wads hit Goliath’s belly and chest before one boy smacked Goliath in the head. His wad stuck. Everyone clapped.

Children this age celebrate newly acquired skills. The most emphatic was the first grader who sat down and announced, “I know just about everything.” The teacher simply diplomatically said, “I want to tell you a bit more.”

Children know the classic stories and assume the answer to every question is “Jesus.”  That was true until the week siblings visited for the first time. They heard the questions and simply stared blankly. They did not know what to say when the teacher asked, “Who loved you enough to die on the cross for you?”

The sister and brother had no clue. Their parents, who had known those answers at age five, had not conveyed the information at home nor taken their children to church to learn it. That day served as a vivid reminder of the importance of Sunday School and that it only takes one generation for Biblical truths to be lost.  

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Every home needs one

           The rectangular wrapped box felt heavy in my hands. “Every home needs one of these,” my roommate said as she handed me a wedding gift.

“Thank you,” I tore open the package to find a sturdy cardboard box picturing a food grinder. I lifted the lid and saw the cast iron augur, clamp, wing nuts, wooden handle and screws. I had never used one nor seen my mother or grandmothers use one. “Thank you, I am sure it will be useful,” I said and set the box aside for the next gift.

About once a year I found it useful for grinding cranberries to make cranberry salad. Berries popped as I cranked; the auger grabbed berries, pulling them down into the hole to grind them into small pieces that oozed cranberry juice to the floor. To catch the cranberry dribble, I placed a shallow bowl on the floor under the grinder.

Other hand crank devices joined the cast iron food grinder: a wooden ice cream freezer and an apple peeler. Both were hand operated.. Those manual machines took longer to use but they definitely guaranteed exercise with every turn of the handle up and around. But who considers exercise when ads announce new small appliances for the kitchen? 

Not me. I drooled over ads for a food processor, “That looks handy. I wish they didn’t cost so much.” It sounded much safer than scraping my thumb on the hand grater when I made slaw.

After a couple years of drooling, I came in the door after a Saturday of yard sale shopping, absolutely thrilled, “Look what I found today!” I pulled out an assortment of blades, bowl, and motor for my food processor.

At Thanksgiving time I reached for the noisy electric food processor and mused, “I wonder how it will work with the cranberries?” I snapped the bowl into place, poured tiny, red globes into the funnel and flicked the switch. Wonder of wonders! The dribble of cranberry juice stayed inside the container.

The food processor, with much fanfare and noise, replaced the squeak of the turning cast iron augur and faint pop of berries. I only had to press a button, add fruit and scrape out chopped berries and juice.

The food grinder moved to the back of the cupboard as did the hand operated ice cream freezer since store-bought frozen confections took less time and money. For years on Mondays I pulled out the mixer along with flour, yeast and other ingredients to make a week’s worth of bread. I expertly kneaded dough, shaped loaves and relished that first bite of bread hot from the oven bread.

Then I discovered the bread store: so much faster and easier! Still, I missed the taste and smell of freshly made bread, which explains my interest in bread makers. No kneading, no mess. “Just add the ingredients, close the lid and a couple hours later enjoy fresh bread.”

I bought a bread maker. The rich smell of baked bread filled the house until I lost interest and sold it. Then one day I wanted homemade bread, I reached for a metal bucket with a hand crank that turns the dough with a hook. I had come full circle.

        That batch of homemade bread reminded me of the food grinder in the back of the cupboard. I considered using it to make chicken salad.  I pulled out the cast iron grinder and studied it for a minute. “This should mince and mix the chicken, onion and celery.”  I clamped my 50 year-old grinder to the table and began dropping bits of meat and vegetables in the cup. It took a bit of muscle power to make a great salad with minimal noise and no nicked fingers. My roommate was right, every home does need one. 

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