Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Marvelous Human Christmas Tree

One of the highlights of my preschool Christmases was the annual concert put on by the students of the Amaranth Elementary School. The entire community came out, packing into the local hall, bundled in our boots and parkas. We’d watch the kids perform and at the end of the night, Santa Claus showed up with a gift for every kid—even those of us too little to go to school. Even at that age, I knew Santa was pretend. It didn’t matter. I was all about the present.

Oddly enough, the concert I remember best was the one I had to miss. I’d come down with a dreadful cold and sore throat and tried to convince my parents I was well enough to attend. They weren’t buying it. Dad stayed home with me, if I remember right. My deep disappointment at having to stay behind was reduced when Mom and my siblings returned, bringing my still wrapped gift from Santa. It was a jigsaw puzzle.

By the time I hit Grade One (we had no Kindergarten), I felt more than ready to perform in my first Christmas concert. Our teacher, Mrs. Cooper, organized her class into a living tree. Dressed in green crepe paper and gold tinsel, we were somehow stacked in layers to form a glorious living Christmas tree. Some kids were sparkly ornaments. Others, decked out in wrapping paper, represented the gifts underneath. Each had a line to say.

If anyone thought to take a picture, I have never seen it—which is probably just as well. No photograph, especially in black and white, could ever reproduce the magnificence of that tree in my brain’s memory bank.

Of course, somebody had to play the star at the top. I always figured I was chosen for this distinction because I was the tallest in the class. Whatever the reason, I was thrilled. But how would I ever memorize all those lines?

Big sister helped, and I went over and over them. And over them. The night of the event, I remember our principal lifting me to the top of the step ladder or whatever they’d rigged up, decked out in shining gold tinsel and feeling like a star indeed. More than a half century later, I still remember my lines:

“I am the star, see its bright Christmas light
That shone on the manger that first Christmas night!”

Although I have since memorized many lines, none have stuck like the ones I learned as a six-year-old.

Did that first taste of the spotlight kindle inside me a flame which would lead to a lifelong interest in the stage and all things theatrical? Could be. I do know that when God places a dream in your heart, it does not easily die. And if it does, it wasn’t God who killed it.

I see three lessons here for parents of young children. One, if you want your children to believe you about God (or anything else), don’t lie to them about Santa Claus. Two, whatever you want your kids to remember forever, get it into their heads early! And third, pay attention to their engagement level at concerts. You might just see a noteworthy glimpse into their future—a passion which you can play an important role in nurturing.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Fine Art of Name-Calling

Although I’ve always been called “Terrie,” for the first two decades of my life I believed my real name was Theresa, after my great-grandmother. Mom explained that “Terrie” was a nickname and registered me as Theresa at school. The other kids would snicker whenever an unsuspecting substitute teacher called out “Theresa” in roll call.

At thirteen, I decided it might be cool to spell my name Teri. It caught on, and I remained Teri all through high school. That’s what you’ll see on my high school diploma and our wedding invitation.

Then, because I was moving out of the country, I applied for my birth certificate. Lo and behold, I discovered I’d been legally registered at birth as Terrie. I had never actually been Theresa at all. We teased Mom that she must have been looped on painkillers when she filled out the form.

So I became Terrie once again, and I’ve stuck with that for forty years, although others have spelled it Teri, Terie, Terry, and Terri. One becomes used to all the variations when one has a name like mine. I try not to let it cause an identity crisis.

Recently, though, I created a Service Canada account online. If you’ve done that, you know you must first request a special unique code. When my code arrived in the mail, my name was spelled Teri. Even my middle name, Janette, was misspelled. Would this discrepancy cause problems down the road? I didn’t want to risk it.

So, down to the Service Canada office I went. I took along my passport showing the correct spelling of my name. I should have realized they’d want my birth certificate and marriage certificate. So, back home I drove for the key to our security box. When I arrived at the Credit Union, friendly Holly led me into the room with all the lock boxes and pulled ours out. I went through everything. No birth or marriage certificates materialized, except for hubby’s. I returned home, where I found mine in a filing cabinet, and circled back to Service Canada.

They entered everything correctly and assured me it was all good.

Several days later when I again logged into my account, my name still came up wrong. Back to Service Canada I went, torn between annoyance at the inconvenience and gratitude for a local office. The lady who helped me before couldn’t solve the issue and sent me back to the waiting room. When my name was called again, the second lady went into her computer and assured me my name had been entered correctly and advised me to move forward with my business regardless of how the login name showed up.

Last week, I received the letter I’d been awaiting—still with the wrong spelling of my name. I returned to our Service Canada office. The lady seemed puzzled, but assured me it must be just a glitch and suggested I call the toll-free number and keep toggling between “Press One” and “Press Two” until I reach a human.

All of which left me wondering who named Service Canada.
Worship leader Tommy Walker wrote a song that says, “He knows my name; He knows my every thought; He sees each tear that falls; And He hears me when I call.”

King David said of God, “You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you; The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” (Psalm 139)

I don’t need to worry about what I was or wasn’t named, or how it is or isn’t spelled. I’m a child of God and he knows my name. He knows yours, too. He is for you. You are who he says you are, and ultimately, that is more than enough.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Remember to Remember, Part 2

The women of the Amaranth Gospel Mission, the church in which I grew up but had not visited in decades, were planning a ladies’ day out and discussing whom to invite as guest speaker. One of the leaders, Shirley, had a potential speaker in mind and mentioned her name to the others.

No one said a word.

Did they even hear me? she wondered.

The next day, she received a text from one of the other women: “Have you thought about inviting Terrie Todd?”

Shirley had not. And she wasn’t sure she wanted to. But, she was willing to pray about the matter. While she waited for more direction from God, she decided to tackle the job of preparing that Sunday’s church bulletin. She always likes to include a seasonal poem or brief story in the bulletin. It was Thanksgiving weekend. What could she find?

She Googled “Thanksgiving devotionals.” One of the sites that came up was called Thoughts About God. Shirley figured that sounded as good as any, and went to the site. She clicked on “Thanksgiving” and began scrolling through the titles of articles listed under that theme. One called “Better Late than Never” caught her eye and she began to read. 

Shirley quickly realized the piece was much too long for her bulletin, but the story had already pulled her in. It told about a mother receiving a hand-written thank you card from a daughter. Shirley had recently spent a great deal of time writing her own mother a lengthy letter of gratitude, so the story held great significance for her. She read the whole piece and felt blessed. At the end, she found the author’s name.

You’re way ahead of me.

“Terrie Todd.”

It was the answer Shirley needed. She called me, but did not reveal that story because she didn’t want it to influence my decision. She extended her invitation and I told her I’d pray about it and return her call the next day. It wasn’t until after I’d hung up that I began to see God was up to something—as I wrote about in last week’s post. Would a visit to Amaranth be another piece of my “slide show?”

I called her and said yes.

Shirley waited until the end of our day together to share her story with the whole group. I was astounded, but not as much as I was a couple of days later.

With a bit of effort, I tracked down the site where she’d found my story. I remember writing it, but it would have been twelve years ago—long before I had a column or a blog of my own. I probably wrote it for my church’s newsletter, which was not online. I keep meticulous records of work I submit for publication, but I found no record of publishing that story anywhere. Yet there it was.

And of all the gazillion options that might come up when one Googles “Thanksgiving devotional,” how did Shirley unwittingly come across mine?

You can call me crazy, but I believe God orchestrates these things. He knows how desperately our feeble hearts need affirmation that we’re on the right track. He guides in ways we can’t figure out, and it makes us love him more. The enemy of our souls will tell us every lie in the book, and they can sound so true. But he can’t do what only God can do.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (from Psalm 103)