A Bowl Full of Cherries

“If life is a bowl full of cherries, then why am I in the pits?”  I’m sure you’ve all heard that statement before!  Well, for me, today has been a day loaded with cherries!

It started in the cherry orchard at 7:30 am.  My dear husband went with me to pick them, and what a beautiful sight!  It was worth it just to stand on the side of that hill and gaze across the valley at the gorgeous mountain range beyond.  The place didn’t open until 8:00, and I’d say there were at least 50 people ahead of us and another 50 behind us by the time they opened the starting gate; then off we went as though there could never be enough cherries for all of us!

However, I must say that the early bird gets the worm and the early cherry picker gets the biggest cherries!  If you have never picked cherries, you’ve really missed something!  There they hang, in glorious red clusters just begging to be picked!  It’s a beautiful sight!

So, after about an hour, we had our 35 pounds of cherries (and at $2.25 a pound – well, you do the math! I’m broke!)  Then we stopped to visit our son and daughter-by-choice (doesn’t that sound so much better than daughter-in-law?  She truly is a daughter to us and if our son hadn’t picked her, we would have!)  AND two of our grandsons. Anyway, what a wonderful visit we had – she even fed us our second breakfast of the day AND I got to feed our youngest grandson a bottle.  Does life get any better than this?

My next stop was our daughter’s home, where I watched our middle grandson.  After quite a show of smiles and faces while Mommy fed him cereal, he headed to the swing and fell asleep to the lovely, “chink-a-chink” sound of the cherries making their way through the cherry pitter, while Mommy had a photo shoot (She’s awsome!  Check her out!! Jennifer Mark’s Photography) My daughter has  a 1903 cherry pitter that looks a lot like the one in the photo, and let me tell you – it works like a charm!  There’s something about using an antique like that that makes you feel homey and close to your roots.

Seven years ago, the Lord moved us back to my home town.   After twenty-six years of living in NJ, PA, SC, and VA, I never would have thought that I’d be back in this area.  Coming “home” has been such a blessing; and now two of our three children are also here ministering with us in our church!  Does it get any better than that?

I’m not sure if there’s any great spiritual lesson in this blog, except this:

 “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness,                                            and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” Psalm 107:8

At times, like today (my birthday, by the way!), life is a bowl full of cherries.  Those are the times that we need to “tank up” on our blessings side of life’s score sheet; so that when the pits come – and they will – we have an arsenal of reasons to tell Old Scratch to beat a path home.  (That’s the polite way of telling him to go you know where!)  It’s so easy to see only puddles after and during the thunderstorm – but do remember that often God puts a rainbow in our storms too.  Learn to tuck away the memories of “cherry days,” so that when the “pit days” come, we can say with Job: “

“…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away;                                                blessed be the name of the LORD.                                           

Job 1:20

A Sweet Savour

A family in our church makes goat’s soap (Naturally Soothing), and we put small bars into our welcome packages.  The bars are stored in the church office.

Recently, I went into the office for something and caught a whiff of the beautiful smell of goat’s soap; it almost made me cry because that dear family has moved to South Dakota – a rather long commute! The lingering scent was a sweet reminder of many precious memories.

2 Corinthians  2:15 says that “we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ,”  Our lives are like the sweet incense that rose from the altar of sacrifice. As we offer our lives to His service, we become that “sweet savour of Christ” unto God.  He watches as we serve Him, fellowship one with the other, worshiping Him in spirit and truth, overlooking each other’s faults, and we rise like a sweet smell, reminding God the Father that it truly was worth sending His Son to the cross!  He looks down upon are actions and attitudes which reflect the love of his precious Son and we are a “sweet savour.”

How is it with you? When you enter into a room, is there a “sweet savour of Christ” that accompanies your words and deeds?  Does your presence send a sweet savour throughout the atmosphere, making other think of Christ?

When you go, is there a lingering “sweet savour of Christ” left behind, making others think on Jesus because your attitude and actions so graciously reflected our Savior?

What a challenge this has been to me!!!!  May the Lord bless you as you spread His sweet savour in his absence!  Oh how this stinky world needs it!

Twelve Smooth Stones – The Way of Truth

How do you write a story? Where do the thoughts come from?  I’m not sure how other writers answer that question, but for me, I believe with all my heart that the idea for Twelve Smooth Stones came from my heavenly Father, hence the dedication:

I dedicate this book to my gracious Heavenly Father, who gave me the idea in the first place and then led me every step of the way.

The idea was a combination of thoughts: what would a modern-day story of Esther look like?  What if an heirloom locket could be the means that would help to make the connection in a young Jewish girl’s mind from her heritage to the truth about Jesus Christ.

The following is the final excerpt from my book and was the spark that flamed into Twelve Smooth Stones.  It’s quite a long excerpt and perhaps some background is needed. Esther, taken from her home in Amsterdam and surviving Auschwitz, moved to Israel, hoping for a new life.  She is now in America and has long ago lost the beautiful locket that had been a family heirloom – the twelve gems each representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  She is presently living with the Porters, the family of a young Christian girl whom she befriended on the ship from Israel to New York City, and is working for the father in his hardware store.  She has a son, David:

The day was bright but cold, and everyone seemed to need paint. Esther was so tired by the end of the day that she decided that she would miss the Bible Club that afternoon. But when Gladys came through the door with Little David laughing and sharing some special secret, her feet suddenly didn’t feel so tired. Besides, all you do is sit and listen— Libby does all the work, she thought.

David was still giggling when Esther gave him a hug. “And what is so funny, young man?” she asked in mock sternness.

David saw the twinkle in her eye. “Aunt Gladys was just telling me about the time she—”

“Now hold on, partner,” Gladys said with a cowboy twang that had David in stitches. “Are you going to tell my secret?” David beamed. He adored Gladys almost as much as she adored him.

“Well …” he said as if considering his answer. Gladys pounced on him, tickling his sides. “You better not, or I’ll tickle you to death!” David was nearly rolling on the floor with laughter when Mr. Porter came over.

“What’s going on here?” He played the part of a disgruntled adult, but the sparkle in his eyes gave him away.

“My partner here was just about to tell this woman our secret,” Gladys said, pointing an accusing finger at the little traitor.

“Ah,” her father exclaimed, “a serious offence.” He looked down his nose at David and then bent down to talk to him face to face. “You know, we are nearing the time when secrets will be on every one’s mind.”

David looked curious. “What do you mean, Grandpa John?”

Mr. Porter leaned a little closer and whispered in the little boy’s ear, “Christmas.” David’s curiosity turned to confusion.

“What’s Christmas?” For all of Mr. Porter’s intuition, he completely forgot that David was Jewish. He looked up at Gladys, who was smirking at him, and Esther, whose eyebrows were lifted, and sputtered on. “Well son, Christmas is a very special time of the year when everyone gives presents.” He longed to tell the boy the whole story, but he knew it was not his place.

“But why?” came the innocent response. Gladys’ eyes softened, and Esther came to the poor man’s rescue.

“David, we will talk about that soon, but don’t you think we had better get to our Bible Club?” As if on cue, Libby came sweeping into the building, flannel board in tow. The usual crowd of youngsters began to arrive with a couple of new faces that Libby introduced as children from her Sunday school class. For some reason, the statement tugged on Esther’s heart, and she pictured Little David sitting among the men at the synagogue looking totally lost.

After the usual attendance, Libby flew into the memory verse with her usual flair. “Could one of you older boys find Galatians 4:4 and read it for me?” Several of the students furiously looked into their Bibles to be the first one to find it. A tall, red haired boy’s hand shot up in the air. “Danny, you read it, please.”

The boy cleared his throat and read with a heavy brogue accent. “ ‘ But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.’  ” He looked up and smiled. Libby obviously received much affection from these children— they adored her.

“Thank you, Danny. Now we have been learning a lot about the Old Testament, but today we are going to look at the New Testament. In fact, we are going to talk about heaven, and I have something very special I want to show you.” The excitement buzzed around the room. Libby often used objects to help the students have a visual picture to remember the lesson.

She went on to explain the verse, stating that all the Old Testament pointed to the time when God would send His Son to earth, made of a woman. “Who can tell me what holiday we celebrate that speaks of this wonderful event?”

Hands shot up, and one girl answered excitedly, “Christmas!” David looked back at his mother with wonder, his face shining. Esther would never forget the way that Libby spoke of the coming of the Messiah that day. She made everything so plain that for the first time, Esther began to understand.

“God told us exactly when, where, how, and why He sent us His Son.” Using each adverb as an outline, Libby swiftly moved through many of the Old Testament verses that they had studied, and then read verses from the New Testament where they had been fulfilled. “Can anyone tell my why God sent Jesus?”

Again, hands were raised, and another girl answered, “So we could go to heaven.”

Libby smiled. “Yes, Patricia. And that’s what we will be talking about in the next few weeks.” Her eyes were shining, and the children knew it was time for her surprise object. “Do you remember the beautiful stones that God used to decorate Aaron’s robe?” Heads nodded.The students had especially enjoyed the lessons about Moses, the tabernacle, and the high priest’s garments. Libby turned to Revelation.

“In the very last book of the Bible, God gives us a description of heaven. It also has twelve of something— twelve foundations— and they are not made out of just ordinary, ugly cinder blocks like our houses are here. They are made of beautiful gems, just like Aaron’s robe— jasper, sapphire, emeralds, and topaz, just to name a few. God used every color imaginable to make these foundations.” Her excitement swelled as she spoke of her favorite topic.

“Just imagine! Each foundation will sparkle and shine in twelve glorious colors. And God used pearls to make the gates and gold— pure gold for the streets. God wants us all to be in heaven with Him forever. Don’t ever forget that.” Her eyes twinkled as she turned around to take something from her bag. She put it into her hands so that no one could see it. “Can you guess what is in my hands?”

Several gave answers, but each time her reply was, “No.” Libby’s face grew serious, even wistful. “Someone very special gave this to me, and every time I see it, it makes me think of heaven— partly because of the twelve smooth stones, but mostly because the one who gave it to me is there right now.” She opened her hand and held out a locket with deep etchings and twelve colorful stones around its oval shape. It was a beautiful locket— it was Esther’s locket.

MacAvoy, Wanda. Twelve Smooth Stones (Kindle Locations 4911-4912). Kirkdale Press.

The new Tilly!

IMG_6114I couldn’t bear the thought of another year of ‘babying’ Tilly – trying to coax her to perform; so, we took her to the shop.  I was ready to buy a new tiller until I priced them!  Then I looked on Craig’s list and laughed when I saw a tiller in worse shape than Tilly for $150!

Three weeks later I got the surprise of my life!  Tilly is like new! She chews up that dirt like it’s nothing!  I’m so proud of her and can’t wait for these monsoons to stop so I can get out there and till again!

So what’s the lesson for us?  (So glad you asked!! 🙂 )

Sometimes we need a tune-up spiritually, and it may not come cheap!  It may cost you something very precious: TIME!  Tilly was  in the shop for three weeks.  I wonder how much change I’d see in my walk with God if I was in the shop of God’s Word for three weeks.  Grant it, I’m sure the mechanics were not working on Tilly for all that time, but what if I did stop and make an asserted effort to spend more than usual reading God’s Word, talking to God in prayer, and memorizing Scripture?  Do you think it would make a difference in my “performance” in God’s vineyard?  Without a doubt!

Tilly had sat for over ten years in my parent’s shed.  A dear older gentleman in our church worked on her and got her running; but this time, we needed to take her to the experts.

Do you need a little help in your Christian walk?  Do you need to visit The Expert?  God knows your ‘engine’ better than even you do – He made it!! Why not let Him do the tune up? Even if you’ve been sitting on the shelf collecting dust for years, God can do amazing things if only you will let Him.

I’m teaching VBS next week and am using the picture of Jesus standing at a door knocking.  The picture that always hung in my mother’s room showed the door with no handle; point being that for salvation, God will not open the door of our hearts.  He has given us a free will, and we must open our hearts-door to let Him in.  Do you know that the same is true about sanctification?  He will not force us to put on and put off things in our lives that make us more Christ-like, but He’s ready every moment of the day to help us to change as soon as we ask; and He promises the grace to be successful!

You know, if we had known that it would have made such a difference, we would have taken Tilly to the shop five years ago!  Don’t waste another day sputtering around, because you haven’t charged your battery, or your carburetor is clogged with worldly waste!

AND, the biggest lesson is that every life is here on earth for a purpose.  I nearly got rid of Tilly!  You may think that your life is beyond repair!  NOT TRUE.  That is definitely Satan’s lie!  Remember – as a born-again Child of God, we serve the God of the Impossible!

There’s fruit to be produced in every life.  Allow our gracious heavenly Father to tune you up, and watch the dirt fly!

Twelve Smooth Stones – a Christian Historical Fiction

twelvesmoothstones-1200x1600Although Esther Ruth Raul, the main character is a fictional character, several other names are not: in particular, Oskar Schindler and Kurt Gerstein.

The combined actions of these two men are instrumental in saving Esther’s life: Kurt Gerstein, an SS Officer for the Third Reich, is disillusioned with Hitler’s “Final Solution” as he calls it, and seeks to save lives in any way possible.  Historically, he did bury canisters of the Zyclon-B chemical which was used in the gas chambers. Fictionally, he rescued young girls from the usual barracks where so many died of starvation, disease or the gas chambers by placing them in a situation none of them would choose.

The following is one of my favorite glimpses of Kurt Gerstein. The first excerpt takes place right after Esther arrives at Auschwitz, where she is chosen by Kurt along with several other girls.  They are taken to another building, showered, and then tattooed.  Their hair is not shaven due to the “profession” which they will be involved with; and until now, she has been able to keep her precious locket hidden:

Esther was ordered to stand by the door and wait for the other girls to finish, pain shooting up and down her arm from the tattoo. Finally, the last of the girls were finished, most of them whimpering from the pain and fear of what was happening. What next? Who cares, Esther thought morbidly.

As she leaned against the wall, to her horror, she felt her locket give way. She frantically clutched at it, but before she could grab it, it clattered to the floor at her feet. All eyes were upon her as the woman officer, who seemed to be in charge, looked at her with eyes of menacing steel.

She coolly and slowly walked over to Esther, standing inches from her; the woman’s hot breath blew from her nostrils into Esther’s face as she coldly stared into her eyes— pools of terror. Without warning, the woman struck a hard blow across Esther’s face, sending her reeling to the floor. She felt a shoe on her neck as the woman reached down to pick up the necklace.

“You little fool,” the woman spat at her. “Take her out of here!”

“You forget whose she is, Frau Stedder,” a voice as calm and cool as an Arctic breeze spoke. Esther could not see him, but she knew it was the officer who had taken her from the platform.

“But Officer Gerstein, you know the rules! She tried to hide this from us,” the woman whined, waving the locket in his direction.

Gerstein casually glanced at the locket and then back at the woman. “And are you more concerned with the rules or with keeping the trinket?” Kurt knew much of the Jewish jewelry never made it to the official stockpile.

Stedder would keep quiet, for she knew that he too would keep her secrets. She vehemently dropped the locket into his outstretched hand, spun on her heels, and returned to her desk for the tattoo order form. She curtly placed it in his hand and, without a word, continued her duties, dismissing him by her silence.

He turned to the girls, his eyes locking with Esther’s for just a moment. “Follow me.” Esther scrambled to her feet. As they all reached for their satchels, Gerstein simply stated, “Leave them.”

Later, while in Kurt’s room, she gets another glimpse of her Captor-Savior:

She could hear him locking the door. She walked to the other room and looked furtively out the window. There weren’t many people out on the walkway. She saw him hurrying down the road toward a building across a lawn, set back away from all the other buildings. She could see the brick building with the giant smokestack across the way. It looked ominous. At the moment, there was no smoke spewing forth. All seemed at rest. What time is it anyway? Esther wondered.

She had no way of knowing. The sun had long since set behind the western wall. Had it been a beautiful sunset? Somehow, she couldn’t imagine any beauty in this place. She turned back to her room. It was more pleasant than she would have expected. In the back room was a bed complete with sheets and a cover. A small table stood between the bed and the outer wall, which held a small lamp and a book.

Curious, she walked over and cautiously picked it up. It was a Bible. Her first reaction was to throw it down. It was a forbidden book to her. She would read her Ketuvim*. Then she remembered that her Ketuvim was gone— along with everything she held dear. Gabriel’s letters! The thought of them in a stranger’s hands made her heart ache.

(* A Jewish sacred book containing Esther through Song of Solomon.)

The book in her hand brought her back to reality. Had she not heard that part of this book was like her own sacred writings? She hesitantly opened the front cover. The first page bore an inscription:

To Kurt, With love, Father and Mother

Strange! As she continued to turn the pages, she realized that it was indeed the same as the Torah. With hope in her heart, she continued fanning the pages. The familiar books were all there— First and Second Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah— even Esther. Pulling the book to her chest, she fell to her knees and wept tears of joy. Oh Jehovah, how great thou art! She could speak no more; she simply allowed the tears to wash away all the horror of the day…

(several days later)

She was so absorbed in her reading that the rattling of keys in the lock startled her. She found herself holding her breath, hoping that it was Kurt Gerstein. He entered, quickly locking the door behind him. As he looked at her, his eyes fell again to the Bible. She awkwardly laid it beside her, absentmindedly smoothing the wrinkles from her dress. He walked to her and knelt before her, gazing directly into her eyes. They were brimming with emotions, but Esther couldn’t discern which ones. Not anger. Not pity. Perhaps just sadness.

“Esther, I don’t know what is going to happen to any of us, but while you are here, in this room, please know that it is your room. You may look at anything, read anything. I have no secrets— nothing too personal that I would not want to you see it.”

He picked up the Bible, and placed it back into her hands. “But especially this Book.” He hesitated, not wanting to startle her by his forwardness. “At Auschwitz, there is no time. We just continue blindly in our routines as if moving through a nightmare. We forget what real life is like.”

Again, he halted, and the silence in the room was stifling. His closeness made the hairs on the back of Esther’s neck rise; she could hear his labored breathing, as though his next words were costing him a great deal. “I used to read the Bible every night. Perhaps we could do that together.” There was a subtle pleading in his voice.

Before Esther could respond, he continued on in a different tone. “When we are outside these doors, I must treat you as if you are no different than the other girls. During the day, you will eat with them and work with them, but at night you will be protected. If the other girls talk about … their situation, it would be wise if you did not reveal yours.”

He was visibly shaken. He absently massaged his forehead between his thumb and fingers, seeking to drive away the pounding headache that had started at the office. “When you are finished for the day, you may visit with the other girls or come here, but do not have any of the girls come to this room. Lock the door behind you. And I would suggest that once you are in here, stay in here.”

He stood to his feet and walked to the door. He held the knob for a moment and then turned to face her. “Tonight will be very difficult for the girls. You may hear things. If I am not here, please do not open the door for any reason. Even if someone knocks and demands you to open, just ignore it. I cannot stress that enough.”

He was so urgent. He turned back to the door and paused, taking a deep breath and exhaling it slowly. The drooping shoulders squared, transforming his entire appearance. He looked like the SS officer his uniform portrayed. Esther would find herself wondering at his dual image: the stern SS officer and the kind gentleman caught in a web spun by the Third Reich called the Final Solution.

MacAvoy, Wanda. Twelve Smooth Stones (Kindle Locations 1130-1138). Kirkdale Press.

Twelve Smooth Stones is also a love story… 🙂

Thanks, Walmart!

At this week’s teen meeting, we started with a challenge about devotions by asking the teens how many days this week they had read their Bibles.  Sad to say, only one had read his Bible once; the rest hadn’t read at all.  You know the saying:

Seven days without the Bible, makes one weak!

Two of the teens had just recently trusted Christ at a week of revival meetings, and we had met with them a few days before to encourage them, even lending them two of our study Bibles to help them to get into the Word.

I was looking in my concordance for the verse about “falling seven times” when I came across this verse:

 “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.”              Psalm 119:164

That was a challenge to me!  Do I praise the Lord seven times a day?  I decided to find out.  The next day I placed a tally mark on the calendar by my computer every time that I praised God. (I only came up with five! 😦 )  AND, I almost forgot about the whole idea until I came into the bathroom that morning and saw the hand towel with the word ‘praise’ on it!  (Thank you, Walmart!)

How much do we praise our God?  It certainly isn’t for a lack of blessings that we do not praise Him.  So often our thoughts are consumed by the trials and activities of the day, that we find ourselves crawling into bed that night without one thought of our Heavenly Father’s interventions and blessings!

I challenge you to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN for God’s presence.  He truly is everywhere!  We just don’t take the time to see Him! Perhaps a few reminders around the house would help: brightly colored sticky notes with the word PRAISE on them, for example!  All I know is that I was truly blessed when I took the time to praise God; and maybe today, I’ll hit seven!!!