I am a writer who loves to imagine, discover and create a story where history and romance meet God's supernatural realm. My first historical romance, Answering Annaveta, is due out in Fall 2012 and includes moments of suspense, dreams and angel-visits. I am married to Murray, the man of my dreams, love our 4 energetic teenagers and enjoy our dog Zig and 2 Parakeets, Polly and Holly. I am a big fan of creamy chocolate, cappuccinos and exciting adventures with my family:) You can find more of my thoughts and what I'm up to at www.surfingforshoes.com/wordpress.
The piercing chill of the Northern Canadian wind blew through our hand-knit scarves on that blustery February afternoon. It was an exciting day for my younger brother and I. A combined PTA meeting and skating party meant lots of food and fun with friends. So, with a hot lunch warming our bellies, our skates slung over our shoulders, and hugs from Mom, we waited for our closest neighbors in Beaver Creek’s small farming community to pick us up. Finally their blue van pulled onto our farmyard.
“Quick, get inside.” Mrs. Lawson motioned with her hand. “Judith. Jane. Make some room.” I urged my brother inside and jumped in just as the wind threw the door shut behind us. With chattering teeth we said hi to our classmates and made small talk as we drove the thirteen miles to the school.
“Too bad your mom isn’t feeling well. She’ll miss the meeting today.” Mrs. Lawson held a potato salad on her lap that shook with each bump on the gravel road. “I’ll let her know if there was anything important.”
The Lawson family had two girls. Judith was my age. The girls would always ask questions about what we did with eleven children in our family. My dad and Mr. Lawson would swap ideas on how to grow better crops, and Mrs. Lawson would drive us kids to 4-H sometimes. We were neighbors, so we helped each other.
Rounding the last corner, I saw the schoolyard packed with vehicles. Our classmates were already skating laps on one side of the large rink and on the other end a fast-paced game of hockey was in full swing. The ice rink flanked the corner of the schoolyard between the thick row of trees, so it was easy to see that most of the seventy rural elementary and junior high school students had come out. Mr. Lawson parked the van and we hopped out, excited to join the fun.
We hardly noticed the time go by as we skated and shimmied around the rink.
“Time to come inside. The food is ready.” Mrs. Henderson, a short, plump lady, yelled above the hubbub of skates cutting into the ice and many chattering voices. The wife of a quiet farmer, Mrs. Henderson spoke her mind loud and often, and didn’t hesitate to take charge. She organized the Sunday school at church and had a hand in helping at most Beaver Creek community events.
We entered the gym where the food was laid out on tables. I stood in line with my best friend, Bridgett, who was a year younger than me. In the line opposite us were some of the ladies we knew from church. Mrs. Henderson, Mrs. Kaufman and Mrs. Finch were talking among themselves as they loaded up their plates.
Mrs. Henderson sniffed. “Some kids are here without their parents. Look at those two Amend children. They shouldn’t be eating here at all. Their mom didn’t bring any food.”
Hearing those harsh words, I felt the color leave my face. I was only eleven years old, but I knew when we weren’t wanted. As fast as I could, I set down the plate I was holding and stepped out of the line. Looking around for my younger brother, I quickened my pace as I spotted him near the back of the line.
“Come. We need to go.” I tugged on his hand. He pulled my hand off of his.
“Why?” Aaron frowned and shook his head. “I’m starved.”
“I know. I’m hungry too,” I whispered, my tone becoming more urgent. “But we can’t eat here because Mom didn’t send any food with us. I heard one of the ladies from church say so. Come on.”
Reluctantly my brother followed me outside the school building. We hid on the side of the school building right next to some piles of wood. I don’t know how long we sat there with our knees pulled up to our chests, teeth chattering. It seemed like forever.
“I know you’re cold, but we need to stay outside until most of those moms have left. That way they won’t think we’ve taken any food.” I reasoned with my brother, who still didn’t understand why he couldn’t eat.
“I wish they would hurry up, so we can go home. I’m so cold and hungry.” Aaron pulled his cap farther down his forehead and ducked his head between his arms to stay warm.
I bunched my arms under my legs and curled into a ball. Through slitted eyelids I managed to see several families leaving the school. The noise of the cars starting and driving away broke through the stillness. The parade of families slowly trickled down until only a few were standing in the yard. We walked stiffly to the school’s entrance.
“There you two are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” Mrs. Lawson clucked at us as she came out the front doors. “You both look like you’re freezing. Get inside the van. It’s time to head home.”
“Tell me about yesterday.” Mom kneaded the big bowl of dough for buns. “Did you enjoy yourselves?”
With my little sister playing outside and my older sisters and brothers helping Dad with chores, I felt safe to talk without being teased. Tears filled my eyes as I told her what happened.
“They didn’t want you to eat because I didn’t send any food?” Distress etched her face. Hurt clung to the lines on her face. She stared into space. Suddenly she turned back to me and sighed. “We need to pray and forgive.” She said it so quietly I could hardly hear her.
From her resolute expression, I knew this was true. “Okay, Mom.” I hugged her, and in my childish way thought that everything was solved.
When I was older and ready to start out on my own, Mom told me the rest of the story about that day while we sat at the kitchen table, munching on a fresh batch of cookies.
“Do you remember that skating party and overhearing those ladies saying you shouldn’t eat because your mom hadn’t brought any food?”
“Of course. That wasn’t a fun day for Aaron or me.” I frowned, wondering where she was going with this.
“I told you that we needed to pray and forgive. But it took me two days to get to that point.” Mom had a faraway expression, like she was reliving that event. “I was so hurt by what they said that I wanted to phone them and remind them of a few things, like that PTA meeting was the only time I hadn’t brought food. That as a mom to eleven children I brought double the amount of anyone else. I had quite a list. Instead I went to my bedroom to ask God to help me forgive them.
“What happened next I will never forget.” Tears streamed down Mom’s cheeks. “God showed me a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross. I saw all my sins nailed to that cross where Jesus suffered in unbearable pain. For me. It was like I could hear God whisper, ‘For how much you’ve been forgiven, how could you hold this offense against them?’”
“Oh, Mom.” I held her hand, not knowing what to say.
“God showed me in the deepest way that I could understand what it meant to truly forgive and love people who have hurt you.” Mom wiped her tears with the corner of her hand-sewn apron.
My tears were flowing along with Mom’s as I too was set free from the hurt and shame I had carried all these years.
“You know what?” Mom’s shaky smile lit up her face. “From that day on God has helped me to love not only those ladies, but others who have hurt me along the way. God answered my prayer in the best way possible.”
I looked at my kindhearted mom and knew what a gift I had just been given. The lesson Mom learned that day had blossomed in her heart and had taken root in my own. I would start today to give others around me this treasure. After all, it was planted in my heart not just for my own use but to give away. The most precious gift of all. Forgiveness and love.