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Goodbye and Hello
"Lucy! Stop barking!" scolded Oliver as he scooped the feisty terrier into his arms and hurried to the window. "Maybe Jacob is home!" Oliver peered out and then shook his head in disappointment. "It's just the mailman," he told his mom.
"Well, your brother will be here soon," Mom assured him as she put the finishing touches on a chocolate cake. "Right now, would you please go and get the mail?"
As Oliver went down the driveway to the mailbox, his sister Jennie set the last two plates on the dining room table. "Mom," she said with a sigh, "I feel kind of strange. I'm sad and happy at the same time! I'm excited about seeing Jacob and hearing his stories about college life, but I'm sad because the reason he's coming home is to go to Grandma's funeral." Fresh tears glistened in her eyes.
Mom came to put her arm around Jennie. "I understand, honey. I loved Grandma so much, and I'm going to miss her terribly! But like you, I'm eager to see Jacob walk through that door and say hello."
"Hello is a much happier word than goodbye, isn't it?" said Jennie.
Mom nodded. "Just think, years ago Grandma trusted in Jesus as her Savior, so now while we're saying goodbye to her, she's saying hello to Jesus in heaven--and to Grandpa and other relatives and friends who've gone to heaven before her." Mom paused and wiped away a tear.
Jennie's face broke into a little smile as she pictured Grandma in heaven with Jesus and lots of people she loved but hadn't seen for a long time. "We'll join them someday, won't we?" she said. "Then we'll be saying hello to them again."
Mom nodded. "Yes, we will. And even though we can't see Jesus now, He's with us. He understands the sadness we feel over losing Grandma and will help us say goodbye to her until we can say hello again."
"Hey, Mom!" Oliver burst through the door. "I didn't have to get the mail. Jacob got to the mailbox just before I did!" His grinning brother stepped into the room as Mom and Jennie rushed to envelop Jacob in a big hug. -Linda R. Stai
A Bird Named Witness
"Hazel, would you please fill the bird feeder?" asked Mom as she peeled potatoes for dinner. "I noticed it was empty earlier."
Hazel took the bag of birdseed from under the counter and went outside to the patio. As she carefully poured the seed into the feeder, she noticed her mother watching her. After Hazel went back inside, Mom continued to look out the window for several minutes.
"Are you waiting for all the birds to come get their dinner?" Hazel asked, glancing at the feeder.
"Well, yes, in a way," replied Mom. "Actually, I'm looking for one particular bird right now."
"One bird?" asked Hazel. "He must be special if all that food is for him!"
"Oh, I'm hoping for a whole flock," said Mom. "But right now, I'm just watching for a bird I call Witness. Look! Here he comes now!" A little brown sparrow landed on the edge of the feeder and was soon busily pecking at the seeds.
"That's Witness?" asked Hazel. "What a funny name! Why do you call him that?"
Mom laughed. "The last few days, I've noticed that only one bird shows up when I first fill the feeder. He eats a little and then flies away. A little later, many more birds come to eat." Mom shrugged. "I like to imagine this little bird goes back to his family and friends and tells them the good news that there's food here."
Hazel grinned. "And that's why you named him Witness."
Mom nodded. "He reminds me that we are witnesses too. We have the good news of Jesus--the Bread of Life--who died and rose again to save us from sin, and we share that news with others through our words and our lives." Mom pointed as the little sparrow flitted away. "See--there he goes now."
Hazel nodded. Then she had another thought. "How do you know it's the same bird that comes first every day?" she asked. "Maybe different ones come."
"I never thought of that!" said Mom with a smile. "I don't know one sparrow from another, so there actually could be several little bird-witnesses."
"Just like us," Hazel said. "There are lots of people-witnesses too." -Ruth I. Jay
"Hey, Grandpa, can we go for a hike in the woods behind your house?" Asher asked eagerly when he visited his grandfather one Saturday morning.
"Let's do it," said Grandpa. "Want to take a picnic lunch along?"
"Yeah!" Asher replied, and soon they were off on their adventure.
They hiked all morning and had a great time--until Grandpa tripped over a log and fell. "Grandpa!" Asher exclaimed in dismay, looking at his grandfather's leg, which had been cut by a broken bottle sticking out of the ground. There was a huge gash, and it bled severely. "You need a doctor!" said Asher.
Grandpa grunted. "I don't need help," he said stubbornly. "We're almost back home anyway. I'll be fine!" But after taking only a few steps, he had to sit down again. "I guess it's a pretty deep cut," he said faintly.
"Give me your cell phone, Grandpa," Asher demanded. "I'm calling for help!" Grandpa nodded and handed him his phone.
It wasn't long before Grandpa was on his way to the hospital. When Asher was allowed to go into his grandfather's room, he looked in awe at tubes carrying blood into Grandpa's veins. "Mom said you lost a lot of blood," Asher told him.
"I know," said Grandpa. He pointed to the tubes. "I'm glad somebody gave this blood. I needed it! I probably would have died without it."
"That's what Mom said." Asher was quiet for a moment. "You know what, Grandpa?I just thought of something we talked about in church last week." He studied his grandfather's face. Grandpa always said he had no need for God, and he usually dismissed anything Asher said about God or church with a wave of his hand.
But Grandpa didn't dismiss him this time. "What's that?" he asked.
"Just like somebody gave the blood that kept you alive here on earth, somebody gave His blood so you can have eternal life," Asher said. "Jesus died for your sins on the cross."
Grandpa frowned, but then nodded. "I figured I'd always get along just fine on my own," he said. "I guess this accident shows I'm really not as independent as I thought." He looked at Asher. "Okay. Tell me more. Maybe I do need Jesus."
-Jan L. Hansen
Holding the Leash
"Mom! Look at how well Raquel is walking!" said Danielle as she stepped onto her scooter.
"Yes, she is such a big girl now!" Mom said as she smiled down at Danielle's one-year-old sister. Mom held Raquel's little hand and was closely watching her baby steps. In Mom's other hand was the leash of their big, gentle chocolate-colored Labrador retriever. They walked slowly down the sidewalk as Danielle zipped back and forth to them on her scooter.
Raquel reached out with her free hand toward the dog's leash. "Look, Mom," said Danielle. "Raquel wants to hold Hershey's leash!"
Mom laughed. "Okay, baby. But there's no way I would let you hold it by yourself." Mom kept a tight grasp on the leash as she guided Raquel's left hand onto the handle. Raquel's right hand was still tightly held by her mother.
Raquel giggled and smiled. "That's funny, Mom," said Danielle. "She thinks she's really walking that big old dog!"
"Yes," Mom said. "She doesn't know Hershey could easily knock her down. I'm the one who's really controlling the dog because I'm strong enough to keep her from pulling Raquel. And I'm holding her other hand too, so even if she started to fall, I would catch her."
After they finished their walk and Danielle had put her scooter back in the garage, Mom said, "You know, Danielle, that walk with Raquel and Hershey reminds me of us and God."
"What do you mean?" asked Danielle.
"Well, many times in life, we're faced with situations much bigger than we can handle--just like a twenty-pound baby can't handle a ninety-pound dog. But God is more powerful than anything we may face, and He promises never to leave His children." Mom sighed. "You know we are having some difficult times in our family right now."
Danielle nodded silently.
"Now that your Dad isn't here, things seem almost too much for us to handle, don't they?"
Danielle nodded again, and Mom pulled her in for a hug.
"But just like I wouldn't let Raquel hold Hershey's leash on her own, Jesus won't let us walk through these hard times alone. He is right here with us, holding us in His hand. We can trust Him, even when we don't know how things will turn out." -Karen McMillan
When Marshall and Nathan came home from school, Marshall went to his room, but his twin bounded into the kitchen. "I got all A's on my report card," Nathan announced.
"Good for you!" Mom said, giving him a hug. She looked around. "Where's Marshall?" When Nathan shrugged, Mom went and tapped on the twins' bedroom door. "Marshall? Can I come in?"
"I guess so," came the muffled reply. "I guess you want to see my report card." Without looking at his mom, Marshall handed it to her.
Mom took the paper and looked at it. "Mostly B's, just one C, and even an A!" she said with enthusiasm. "You did well, Marshall. I know how hard you worked for those grades."
"Nathan got all A's," Marshall replied. "I didn't even come close to making the honor roll."
"No, but making the honor roll isn't the most important thing in life." Mom sat down next to Marshall. "I'm proud of both you and Nathan. You're twins, but you're very different, and that's a good thing. Nathan loves to read and study. You, on the other hand, are--"
"Stupid!" Marshall blurted.
"You certainly are not!" Mom exclaimed. "You're smart too." She put a hand on Marshall's shoulder. "When his bike was broken, who fixed it?"
"I did," said Marshall with a shrug. "But there wasn't much wrong with it."
"Last Christmas, we gave Nathan a chess game, and we gave you a set of tools, remember? Did it make you mad that we didn't give you both the same thing?"
"Of course not," said Marshall. "We wouldn't even want the same things."
"No, so we gave you different gifts. God gives His children different gifts too. Nathan is gifted in school-related subjects, but you have abilities he doesn't have. Don't think less of your talents just because they're not the same as Nathan's. God created each of you the way you are, and He loves you both regardless of what you can do--and so do I. Thank Him for the gifts He's given you, and use them to help others."
Marshall was silent for a moment. "I told Peter next door I'd change the tire on his bike," he finally said. "Can I go do that now?" Smiling, Mom nodded. -Barbara J. Westberg
Market Day for Maya
Maya and Marco ran ahead of their mother on the dusty path, too excited to hold themselves back. Today was market day, and Maya and her brother always enjoyed visiting the stalls selling fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, and fragrant breads. But this trip included something special--new shoes.
"Marco! Maya!" their mother called.
The kids joined their mother at a table stacked with shoeboxes. As Mama discussed prices with the seller, Marco and Maya searched for their sizes. "Got mine!" Marco shouted while chickens clucked nearby.
Finally, Maya spotted the pair she wanted. "I'd like these," she announced. Mama bargained with the shop owner and then paid for the shoes.
At home, Maya took out her shoes to try them on. But her happiness turned to confusion when she realized she'd gotten two left shoes.
Maya showed the box to her mother. "Two left shoes, Mama! Now I have to wait another week for new shoes--and I don't even know if the seller will exchange this mismatched pair for a real pair!" Besides being frustrated, Maya now felt worried. "What if we spent all that money with no shoes to show for it, Mama? How could God let this happen?"
Mama pulled Maya close. "It's normal when things go wrong to question how God might fix it. But we know God is trustworthy. It's His job to show us how to handle this. Let's do our job."
Maya wrinkled her brow. "Our job?"
"To trust Him. Not to let fear or anger take control, but to keep trusting God," Mama answered.
"Even if I don't get to switch this pair for a new set, God will still help me solve this, right?" Maya asked thoughtfully.
"Yes!" Mama said. "Circumstances won't always turn out how we'd like, but God takes care of His children."
"And I'm God's child, right?" asked Maya. "Because I trust in Jesus, who paid the price for our sins."
Mama nodded. "That's right. Trust Him to provide you with what you need."
Maya closed the shoebox and set it aside, where it would be ready for next week's market day. -Allison Wilson Lee
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