Little Artie’s Gift For Mother

Linda’s Birthday Surprise 2 – Supper is Ready

At about 5:00 P.M. the old truck rattled back into the driveway. Hank was waiting to put his pack box in the truck so he could leave with Ab early the next morning.

Hank walked to the truck and asked Linda, “How did you find things at camp?” She replied, “Other than Victor forgetting to close the drain thingy and flooding the kitchen, just fine.” She added, “Ruth seemed open to talk about spiritual things and I got to tell her about salvation and how God has changed our lives.”

Linda got out of the truck and Hank gave her a welcome home peck on the lips then slid up behind the wheel. He said through the driver’s side window, “The girls have supper under way so why not come help me get my pack box into the truck.”  Linda stepped up onto the running board and hung on as Hank backed the truck into the shed and up to the platform where the pack box was waiting. Linda reached in and covered Hank’s eyes playfully. Hank knocked her hand away in mock fear as he continued to back the truck into position.

The two of them slid the big old box into the truck. Hank had found this old work box was the easiest way to keep his gear together for his frequent trips into the woods.

His father owned a great deal of land.  He had cut wood himself and sold stumpage to supplement the family income.

Hank had learned from his dad how to fall a tree exactly where he wanted it to go. And on those rare occasions when the tree would “sit back” on his saw blade, he needed to know how to rig a “figure four” to tip the tree off the saw.  He had also learned how to take advantage of the lay of the land, using the natural features to simplify removing the harvested wood. And if the natural features had to be altered; Hank even knew how to handle dynamite. There was, in fact, a half a box of dynamite in Hank’s big pack box they just loaded on the truck.

Linda got a little sad as they talked about his plans to work in the woods. She knew it was dangerous and that if he got injured it would be Ab that had to get him to medical help. Then too, she was anticipating her own loneliness. She wrapped her arms around her husband. She pushed her head hard against his chest nestling there. She clung to him, sad, and happy, and loving him, and wanting to protect him all at the same time.

Just then Phyllis came into the shed from the other door and when she saw her mom, she asked, “Are you ok?” Hank and Linda relaxed their embrace and turned in Phyllis’ direction both smiling and bemused.

Phyllis felt a little self-conscious and understood that what she had just seen was mom and dad expressing their love for each other. To cover her embarrassment, Phyllis launched into her message. “Mom you have to come into the house through the kitchen door, we have a surprise for you.”

Linda responded with a questioning, “OK?” Phyllis continued, “Supper will be ready in five minutes so you need to come now.”

Hank stepped to the outside door and gave a shrill whistle. Art appeared in the shop doorway and Hank motioned for him to come. In a moment Art was running toward the shed.

While he was coming they all headed for the kitchen via the interconnecting buildings that connect the house to the barn.

Phyllis opened the door to the kitchen and they were greeted by warm and fragrant cooking smells. The kitchen table was aglow with candles and the Sunday china.

Linda was pleased and said, “Lovely, but what is the occasion?”

She wrapped an arm around each of her daughters and stood admiring the table for a moment; then kissed each on the forehead.

Hank supplied an answer, “This is a loving Happy Birthday from your girls.” As Hank finished, Linda squeezed her girls and said, “Ok men, wash up and let’s enjoy what the girls have done.”

Hank and Art headed for the bathroom together while Linda washed in the kitchen sink. Then she helped the girls by filling the water glasses.

Soon they were all seated, and Hank asked the Lord’s blessing on the meal and thanked Him for all He had done for them that day.

There were the appropriate encouragements and compliments to the girls for their good cooking. Phyllis reminded them that Virginia had cooked the meal, but she had made the cake.

The meal finished, Phyllis announced, “Ok ladies and gentlemen, we will have cake and coffee in the dining room.”

“Oh my” exclaimed Linda, “This is so nice.” When they got to the dining room their Bibles were all at their places ready for Hank to lead the evening devotions.

Hank grinned at Art and waited for Linda to notice the shelf.

As Hank moved to take his place at the table, Linda noticed the shelf and began to cry again. “Oh Hank,” she said, “It is just perfect, thank you so much.”

Hank grinned and said, “I did not make it, Art did.” She looked at Art and jumped to her feet, went around to the shelf, and looked at it closely and at the arrangement of the cups.

She hugged Art hard and there were more tears of joy. She said, “I just can’t stand it, my children are all grown up and able to do without me.”

Hank said, “Well, there is more.” Phyllis and Virginia glanced at each other, then back at their father, who said, “Art has something he wants to tell you all.”

Phyllis thought, “Hurray Art is going off to military school or the foreign legion.”

Art simply said, “I asked Jesus to be my Savior today.” Linda was on her feet again hugging him with more tears. She was praising the Lord out loud and blubbering and congratulating and exclaiming, “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

Virginia slipped out to the kitchen to adjust the heat under the coffee pot. She seemed to be the only one who could hear the frantic cheerfulness of the percolator.

Sitting back down, Linda took Hank’s hand, giving it a squeeze in silent communication.

Hank felt as satisfied and complete as he had ever been in his life; seeing his wife so happy and one of his children called into the family of God.

He thanked God silently, and understood anew how unbearably precious were the sacrifices made by God and man, so that he could have this life.  He thought, “I must live it well, that is the only way I can honor them.”

As Hank opened his Bible he said, “I need to let my meal settle a bit so I can enjoy Phyllis’ cake.” He continued, “Let us look at our passage for today.” Each opened their Bibles to the place they had marked the night before. Each took a turn reading a verse and as it worked out (John 3:36) was the verse that Phyllis read.

Phyllis was a good reader; she read the verse, loud and fast. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Phyllis closed her Bible abruptly, anticipating that they were done by having finished the chapter. And she was ready to bring out her cake.

Art was aware that this was the first time he really liked hearing the Bible read. He found great comfort from the words that Phyllis had just read, but he could see that Phyllis did not.

Each suggested a few prayer requests and Hank led the family in prayer.

At the “Amen” Virginia was up and out to the kitchen. Phyllis got to her feet to follow and as she did instructed her mom in mock sincerity, “You just stay there.  We will take care of everything.” Linda acknowledged with, “Thank you.”

Soon they were enjoying their cake and giving compliments to Phyllis. Even Art could compliment his sister sincerely.

Slowly their attention shifted to the chores that needed to be seen to during Hank’s absence.

When they had finished the dessert the three children cleared the table and started the clean up tasks.

Hank began to enumerate what had to be taken care of mostly by her in the weeks to come. She said, sort of sadly, “It will be like being on my own again.” Hank started to say, “I’ll be home every weekend…” but they both noticed at about the same time that all three children were in the kitchen and they had not heard a raised voice one time.

This was marvelous and they got to their feet to peek into the kitchen half expecting to find Art tied and gagged. As they looked into the kitchen what they saw was, to them, much more astounding.

They glanced into the kitchen then back at each other with broad smiles.

They stepped away from the doorway. Linda leaned close to Hank and whispered, “Can you believe it?”

Hank responded, “It is a milestone for sure.”

Hank and Linda had seen their three children working together without a harsh word exchanged. There was Phyllis washing, Art drying, and Virginia putting away the dishes.

They were discussing their 4H Club’s projects, which included sending 2 Holstein heifers to Brazil. The children were particularly outraged at the Government of Brazil, who would not let the animals off the ship until a $5000 duty was paid.

Perhaps the introduction of a common enemy (Brazil) had unified them for the moment. Or perhaps it was serving the common love of their mother, but it seemed there was a promise in those moments. Moments that brought joy to the observing parents.

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