at age four (right) and my sister,
Anne, seven, all dressed up for Easter.
I stand at the door and knock."
I was six years old when Christ
first knocked at my door. No one in my immediate
family ever talked about God. We never said grace
before meals, or prayers at bedtime. I've been
told my mom and dad attended church regularly for
years before I was born. Dad had even been a
deacon. But one day, when Dad disagreed with a
decision to fire the pastor, he left the church,
never to return, to it or to any other. Always
submissive to her husband, Mom left with him.
Still, they insisted we kids go
to Sunday School each week. I suppose they
believed they owed us at least the opportunity to
make an informed decision about God. So every
Sunday, my two younger brothers, my older sister
and I climbed into a neighbor's car and rode
along with them to Sunday School at the church my
parents had left. The neighbors didn't go to our
church. They attended the United Methodist
Church, so we walked the block from there to the
First Christian Church. The neighbors always
stayed for the worship service, so when Sunday
School let ot, Dad would usually be outside in
the car waiting to take us home. Occasionally,
one or two of us were allowed to stay with
Grandma for "church." That was always a
treat, but not because the service was
particularly interesting. The only thing I
clearly remember about those services, was
watching an older woman repeatedly change her
glasses. She must have had at least seven pairs.
No, we enjoyed staying for church
only because when it was over, we got to walk the
seven blocks with Grandma to her house for Sunday
dinner. To this day, I've never eaten any fried
chicken better than Grandma's. Somehow she nearly
always saw to it that I got the wish bone, my
favorite piece. I joined the children's choir at
a very young age. I enjoyed singing, but more
importantly, I knew my participation would ensure
a trip to Grandma's house every time we sang.
Grandma's house was a lot
different from ours. It was an old, white, frame
house, with a porch that stretched all the way
across the front, and a wooden swing that
received a fresh coat of green paint each spring.
Grandma also owned the vacant lot next door,
where in summer she grew fresh vegetables. In the
vegetable garden and all around the house, she
also lovingly planted colorful flowers of every
type imaginable. Pansies and daffodils were my
favorites. There was always a hummingbird feeder
on the north side of the house, where you could
occasionally catch a glimpse of one of those tiny
beautiful creatures, and sometimes a few chickens
cackled in the back yard. There were no flowers
at our house, inside or out. No one had time to
plant or tend them.
But what really set Grandma's
house apart was a big picture of Jesus displayed
prominently on a living room wall, and a huge,
white family Bible lying open on a pedestal
below. It was an inexpensive picture of Our Lord,
with a gold lattice work frame and a light you
could turn on at the bottom. With the light on at
night, Jesus face really glowed. My older
brother, who was in the Navy and I hardly knew,
had given Grandma the picture. I thought it was
the most wonderful picture in the world.
At Grandma's house we always said
grace before dinner. Sometimes she even talked
about Jesus as though she really knew Him.
Grandma never went further than the third grade
in school, but she said she had read the whole
Bible and I believed her. I thought she was
probably the only person in the world who had
made it all the way through that huge and
Another thing Grandma had that we
didn't was a shelf full of gospel records. We had
lots of records, but they were jazz, classical
and pop, never gospel. Elvis and Tennessee Ernie
Ford were Grandma's favorites. I could sit for
hours on the floor in front of her record player,
singing along with those stars. "On a hill
far away, stood and old rugged cross," I can
still hear Elvis singing those words and me
singing with him.
I really loved Jesus when I was
at Grandma's house, but I seldom thought of Him
any other time, at least not until the year I was
six. I had a Sunday School teacher that year who
also talked about Jesus as though she really knew
and loved Him. When Christmas drew near, she told
us it wasn't just about Santa Claus, new toys and
red velvet dresses, as I had previously thought.
It was Jesus' birthday. If it was Jesus'
birthday, why were we always the ones to receive
gifts, I wondered. This year, I decided, I would
do something for Him.
So on Christmas Eve, I rummaged
through Mom's junk drawer until I found just the
right birthday card. I took it into my room and
sitting cross-legged on the cold hardwood floor
with pencil in hand, I opened the card and
"Happy Birthday, Jesus.
Then I sealed the card in its
envelope and tried to decide where to put it. On
top of the radiator under my bedroom window
seemed the perfect place. That way it would be
easy for one of Jesus' angels to slip through the
window, get the card and deliver it to Him in
heaven. I went to bed that Christmas Eve quite
confident that was exactly what would happen.
The next morning, I woke up and
immediately looked over at the radiator. The card
was gone. I leaped out of bed and examined the
floor all around. The card was not there. I
couldn't wait to tell Mom. Without a thought for
the Christmas tree and the mountains of toys
beneath it, I ran straight for the kitchen.
"Mom, mom, I wrote a birthday card to Jesus
and his angel came down and got it and took it up
to heaven to Him," I said, jumping up and
down with excitement.
"Don't tell fibs like that,
Deborah," Mom replied, without even turning
away from the pot she was stirring.
"But it's true," I
insisted. "It's true. I put it on the
radiator and it's gone."
I soon had her full attention.
She stopped stirring the custard, looked me in
the eye and insisted I admit to the
"lie." When I refused, she angrily sent
me back to my room. "Don't come out until
you find that card," she said. Fortunately
for me, Dad took pity on me a short time later
and allowed me to come out, join the family and
open my gifts. I never did find the card.
To this day, I believe Jesus has
it. No amount of questioning of my brothers and
sister over the intervening years has yielded any
other explanation. I believe God honored my
childlike faith and chose this miraculous means
to tell me He loved me. Or perhaps, He removed
the card from the hot radiator to save a family
of seven from a tragic Christmas Eve fire. Either
way, it was a miracle that should have changed my
life forever. That was not to be.
I've often wondered what might
have happened if events that day had gone the
other way, if Mom had believed me. If I had been
in control of my own destiny, this miracle would
have touched Mom, too, and both of our lives
would have been much different. But that
obviously wasn't God's plan for either of us.
I don't blame Mom. She honestly
didn't know any better. Miracles didn't happen in
her world. It might seem odd that Christ would
take such action in the life of a child who would
receive no support, but I believe it was my first
lesson in true faith. "In the world, you
will be rejected," He said. "But be of
good cheer, I have overcome the world." It
wasn't until many years later, however, that I
discovered and began to understand those words.
© 1997 Deborah