Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thank you, Lord...for my childhood

Dear Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for taking my childhood and my country for granted. Hardly ever giving it a thought. In light of what is going on in the world and the only seems right to really stop and thank you. To thank you for as much as I can think of.

Thank you for blessing me with good and loving parents. They never abused me...physically, sexually, or emotionally. No one in my family did. Thank you! Thank you that you always fed me. I never worried about whether or not I would eat. In fact, I could go to the refrigerator or cupboard pretty much anytime that I wanted to. In the morning, I never thought twice about getting lunch money from the dish on mom's dresser before leaving for school. It was always there. I always had access to clean water to drink and to bathe in. It was easy to get walking for miles and hauling it home for me. I never had to wear torn or ragged clothing...or shoes that were too small. I had a choice every single day from a variety of clothing hanging in my closet or in my dresser drawers. If I wasn't satisfied with that, I could usually borrow something from one of my sisters. And that wasn't all...if I was bored with my wardrobe, I could usually coerce my parents to drive us to the mall to buy something new. I had more than one pair of shoes. My clothes were lovingly washed regularly and folded for me. I always had a winter coat, boots, knit hats and gloves in the winter....not to mention a home to be warmed and welcomed in. I had a bed to sleep in. I never had to fear that a rocket would hit my house as I slept...or anytime for that matter.

I was allowed to get an education...even though I was a girl. It was free! I could even walk to school or ride a bus there every day without fearing for my safety. I had access to textbooks, school supplies and a school library. I had good teachers. I went to a school that I felt safe in. We had all the equipment that a school needed in the 1970's and 80's...and even extra things. I was not scorned by the kids at school. I was accepted, for the most part. No one accused me of being a terrorist or a murderer because of my race or religion. Sure, there was the occasional bully...but because of my secure homelife...I believed I was worth something, in spite of what they tried to tell me. I was reassured by my parents over and over again that I was created by a loving God, that I was a good girl and that they loved me too. I was encouraged, praised, believed in...and yes...occasionally disciplined when I needed it. I was taught to be able to discern right from wrong. I had excellent role models who practiced what they preached. Thank you. This gave me security and direction. It made me understand who I was and who I could become as I grew up.

I didn't have to be afraid that people would discover that I went to church, owned a Bible or that I was a Christian. We did not have to meet secretly in someone's house or barn to worship. No one was going to arrest my parents because of their relationship with Christ. I had pastors, youth group leaders, Sunday school teachers...and later on I had Young Life leaders who modeled the Christian life for me, handed me the torch of faith and cheered me onward! Thank you for other people in my church growing up...who I knew were Christians and impacted me. They were not always formal teachers, but they taught me what it meant to love and follow God just the same. They are too numerous to list, but I can think of a few key people. Mrs. M DeVries, Mrs. J DeVries, Mrs B McGovern, Mrs. M Lamberts, Mrs. C Lowater, Mr. S Justice, J Perez,....too many to name! At my church, I didn't have to worry about rebels breaking in and chopping off someone's limb, burning down my church, or killing my pastor. It sounds so horrible to speak of...but these are real things that Christians around the world sometimes have to face. I just cannot imagine the horror of it.

In my country, I can say what I want and choose what to believe...even if it isn't politically popular. I do not live in fear! I can disagree with my neighbor without them reporting me to the authorities. I had the freedom to choose any career that I wanted to pursue. There were no social or economical barriers for me. I never had to sneak off to take a dangerous boat ride to the shores of a foreign country just because the leaders of my country were so evil. I was never denied entry to any country. I don't remember ever feeling hated or ostracized because of my skin color.

As a kid, I had a bike of my own. I could just hop on it and ride it to a friend's house or to the dairy to buy an ice cream or candy. I did not fear my friends' parents or the shop keepers, come to think of it. They were friendly. I lived in a good and safe community. Even strangers were pretty safe when I was growing up. If I got hurt, someone helped me. In fact, I remember becoming very ill once when I was out running as a teenager. (Probably because I wasn't much of a runner....but that's another story) An older couple stopped and asked me if I needed help. I was so sick that I couldn't even walk home. They gave me a ride in their car to my house. I never found out their names. Thank you for that blessing...that you sent people to help me when I needed it.

As a child, I had toys, pets, and a swing set. I could turn on any electrical device with a simple switch on the wall. The electricity didn't go out constantly. We had heat and insulation in our house. Our house was sturdy. It had 10 rooms in it, plus an attic and garage! (Not to mention several closets) I even had my own bedroom for part of my childhood! We had a clean, working toilet and shower in our house! I could watch TV, listen to the radio or go outside to play in the neighborhood. I went camping, swimming, roller skating, ice skating and to birthday parties. We had a big garden in our backyard that yielded a crazy amount of vegetables. I didn't always appreciate it as a kid...but I sure do thank you for the nutritious food I had as a kid today! I heard not too long ago about some kids in Haiti who have to resort to eating dirt cakes just to fill their stomachs! Wow! Lord, I thank you so much for every bite of squash that my parents made me eat as a kid. I hated it...but thank you for that squash! I also had access to affordable healthcare. I had immunizations that kept me healthy and regular dental care so I had good teeth. I even was blessed to have orthodontic work to correct an overbite. Thank you!

I had a mother who asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday, and I always got a present. Grandma and grandpa would come over, and they would give me hugs, kisses, and some money in a birthday card. They would say, "You can buy whatever you want with it." Sometimes I even had a friend stay over night for my birthday. I almost always had someone to play with because I was blessed to be the middle of two girls. One was two years older and the other was two years younger. I was never too little or too much older to play with either one or the other. Thank you for my sisters, Lord. We are still good friends today. My dad always had a job, and he and my mother were always healthy. I never had to go through the loss of either one of them as a kid. Dad would come home after work and he was always glad to see us. I would climb up on his lap and he would read a book to me. I remember seeing my parents kiss each other. They loved each other. I never worried that they were going to get a divorce.

Heavenly Father, I could go on and on and on and on about what a wonderful childhood and upbringing I had. Not everyone is as blessed as I was. Help me to realize this everyday, never to take it for granted, and to have compassion for those suffering in this world. Help me to love every one of the teenagers in my school who come into the library that I am fortunate enough to be able to work in. Help me to love every one of the kids who hate libraries and never set foot in one unless forced to do so. Help me to always recognize that the tough and defiant kid...might be hurting inside. Maybe they are not living the ideal childhood. Or maybe they are...but don't realize it yet. Holy Spirit, I need your help to see them the way you see them.

Thank you! Thank you! I have not said it enough in the past...and I know I won't say it enough in the future.

Thank You, Father!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Miracle of the Eggs

It was August of 1990. I was 23 years old and working at a Christian summer camp up on Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. I worked in the kitchen and was one of the head cooks. I had a crew of about 8 high school students working under me. We were up bright and early to prepare breakfast for some 300 teenagers who were campers that week, plus staff. 

Something had gone terribly wrong with the order for food that week. We did not have nearly enough eggs to feed everyone that morning. We began panicking, checking and rechecking the walk-in cooler, hoping to find more eggs that we knew weren't there. Finally someone in the kitchen said, "Hey...Jesus fed 5000 with a few loaves of bread and some fishes. Let's pray." So together we prayed about it and asked the Lord to make it enough. I opened my eyes and saw the same measly amount of eggs. Never-the-less, we counted out the bowls for the number of tables and began divvying up the eggs into each one.

"Ugh!" I thought to myself. Each bowl had barely enough eggs to feed four or five people! Each of the dining room tables had somewhere between 8-10 chairs....which undoubtedly would each be filled by a hungry teenager. We put the bowls on the counters for the servers to come and take to the tables. I remember feeling somewhat embarrassed. Although I hadn't been in charge of ordering the food, I was the assigned head cook in the kitchen that morning. It was on my head that day! Tony, the other head cook, was either safely still tucked into his bunk...or out in the dining hall expecting to eat a hearty breakfast just like everyone else out there. I envied him at that moment. Me? I felt like hiding!

I waited to hear the inevitable complaints that there was not enough...or to see the empty bowls come back to the kitchen with expectations for being filled once again. Yes...I had little faith that our prayer had been answered. I waited...and nothing happened. All I heard was the happy chatter and laughter of campers and staff coming through the open door to the dining hall. 

Soon it was time to start clearing the tables. The bus boys and servers went out to gather up the plates and serving dishes. All of us were stunned to see many of the bowls coming back with some scrambled eggs still in them! How could this be? Did a lot of the campers pass on the eggs that morning? I heard a shout into the kitchen from one of the counselors, "Hey cooks! Thanks once again for another awesome breakfast. It was delicious! You guys are the best!"

I was amazed! (And still am...truth be told.) I started inquiring amongst the campers as to whether or not they had eaten scrambled eggs that morning. The vast majority said they had...which is normal. I could almost hear Christ saying to me, "Why do you doubt me? Oh you of little faith."

The kitchen crew dubbed the experience, "The Miracle of the Eggs." I've long since lost touch with the people I worked with that summer. We were from all over the country. New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Iowa, Ohio, Maryland, and Massachusetts to name a few. I wonder if they tell the story of "The Miracle of the Eggs." If you hear someone else tell it, I was there. It really happened!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

An Education is Golden

Another employee at my school took this picture last week of the high school I work at.