by Debra Dian
Little John Greyson romped around with three puppies he could choose from, playing hide and seek with them amongst hay bales in the barn while his papa Greg, chatted with neighbor Clemson.
Johnny’s eighth birthday was today and a new puppy was his gift. He chose the puppy who followed him most closely, naming him Tag, short for tag-along. Scooping the little Springer Spaniel up into his arms he held him snugly during the ride home where yet another surprise awaited.
Gathered in the parlor and into the dining room were his mama Gladys, little sister, Katie, both sets of grandparents, and several friends from school, singing out:
Johnny blushed with joy. He reveled in the moment, along with everyone, feeling like the most fortunate boy in the county—to have the puppy of his dreams and a party with his friends all in one day.
Immediately, his friends gathered around him wanting a turn to hold and pet the puppy. “His name is Tag. Here Pete, you hold him.”
Gladys hugged her son, then husband Greg and stroked puppy’s head between its ears. “Such a cute puppy you are little Tag…boys follow me to the utility room…we have a place for the puppy to sleep until it’s trained.”
Papa Greg stayed with the puppy until it went to sleep and then joined the others who were feasting on fried chicken and eating cake. But it wasn’t long until the puppy whined for attention. Johnny and his friends, Pete, Brent and Lonnie quickly gobbled their cake and then took Tag outside to play while the adults relaxed with coffee.
Little sister, Katie, age five, had begged to go out with the boys too, but mother Gladys put her off trying to think of something else for her to do, knowing that her brother would be annoyed with his little sister hanging around with his friends.
Hearing the fuss, Grandmother Mildred came to the rescue. “Katie, go get your baby doll, I have something to show you.” Grandmother pulled out from her bag new doll clothes she had bought at Molly’s Gift Shop in Old Town.
Not to be outdone, the other grandmother, Gladys’ Mother, set up Katie’s miniature tea set on the coffee table. So as Gladys cleared the table and did the dishes, the two grandmothers and little Katie had tea with her doll while Greg and the two grandpas talked about world events.
Gladys, content to be alone with her thoughts and the dishes, chose to think of God’s blessings rather than the gloomy talk of the stock market crash and banks closing. While clearing the table she had listened in on the men’s conversations about hard times ahead, yet she focused on better things, happier times–after all it was her son’s birthday.
Recently, the best blessing, was Greg’s newfound trust in Christ. Gladys would always remember the moment.
For months prior, Greg had been nervous about rumors he had heard from colleagues in New York–not nervous for the bank he managed, but for the banking industry. Many banks across America had begun to loan money to borrowers who speculated in the stock market and a well-known economist, someone Greg admired, had warned that the stock market could crash causing banks to be short on cash. When the stock market did crash, many of Greg’s friends in New York had to close their banks. One friend became so distraught that he committed suicide. Greg could hardly cope with the reality of a good friend taking his own life. Although Greg did close the local bank early one afternoon, it was out of grief, not from a cash shortage. Most of his patrons were understanding about it and did not cause a panic.
Gladys remembered when Greg had come home early on Friday afternoon. She and Katie had been making sugar cookies in the kitchen while Johnny was at school. They had heard the sputtering of his car’s engine as he drove up and parked near the barn.
Greg had come in from the front door with Katie running to greet him. He picked her up, hugging her in his arms, then peeked into the kitchen. Gladys had just taken a pan of cookies out of the oven. With a look of concern that carried over to her voice she asked, “You’re home early—everything alright? Are you ill?”
Greg put Katie down so she could sprinkle sugar on the warm cookies. His voice sounded choked from holding back tears. “A friend from New York passed away—a friend from college—he had to close his bank—and—and, I’ll talk with you later about it.”
Gladys hugged her husband and allowed tears to come to her own eyes out of empathy for him. “I’m so sorry Greg.”
Greg downcast and red faced from holding back tears said, “I think I’ll sit out on the front porch for a while.”
Gladys had smiled sweetly through the tears for she had become accustomed to his routine when he came home from work–shot of whiskey and then smoking a pipe of tobacco. Mother had taught her to quietly love her husband with respect even though she disapproved of his daily habit. Her own Mother had learned to love her Dad, whom Gladys had come to realize was not a believer in Christ even though he attended church to please Mother.
And she remembered one day, eight years ago, when Mother had come to visit, baby John still just a few weeks old, daughter had poured out her heart to Mother.
“I’m so very happy to be a new person in Christ—I want to teach baby John all about Jesus too—but—but I’m so disappointed now that I’ve married an unbeliever. Sometimes I feel so trapped—I just–I don’t know what to do.”
Mother smiled sweetly as if she already understood. She had asked Gladys to go get her Bible and together they read 1Peter, Chapter three. Mother had shared the secret of her contentment with being married to an unbeliever. And through the years, Gladys had read the chapter so much that it was memorized.
“…submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight…”
Now Gladys had been rewarded for following this teaching.
The same weekend that Greg had come home early from work, as he mourned the loss of his friend, he began to search for answers to life’s questions—hopelessness and purpose. And happenstance–why was he so fortunate? His bank had prospered when others had failed. And what if his bank had failed? Would he feel so hopeless to take his own life just like his friend had? He thought through the possibilities, making him even more despondent. Is life just meaningless days leading to despair and death? Why spend precious time pursuing prosperity that could be gone overnight?
Gladys had become concerned noticing he had put off doing chores, sulking alone out on the porch, drinking an extra shot of whiskey and smoking more. Not wanting to leave him alone on Sunday morning when she and the children attended church, she quietly asked him if he would go with her to church. She had worried that if she asked, he may explode in anger. So as gently, quietly, nonchalantly as she could she had asked, “Greg, maybe you could sit with us in church this morning since you’ll be driving us there anyway?”
Surprisingly, he agreed. Gladys remembered bursting inside with joy, quietly praying, yet not making a fuss about it outwardly.
At church that morning, Pastor’s sermon–the same Pastor who had challenged them to read the book of John before they married–it was as if his sermon had been prepared just for Greg.
“…It is good for people to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap…a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart…Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life…Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-19; 3:1-11; John17:3; 3:16; Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13-14.
Greg had silently wept after the sermon and later that afternoon after dinner he had sat out on the porch again, but instead of drinking a shot of whiskey and smoking he read the entire book of John. After reading, he recalled the Pastor’s invitation earlier that day to accept Christ as Savior. Quietly, alone on the porch, he prayed to Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. Immediately, he had peace like never before.
The first thing Greg did as a new believer was to apologize to Gladys–the moment Gladys will always remember. She was sitting out on the patio, drinking tea, and watching the kids play ball on the lawn. Greg came and kneeled down in front of her, took her hand and began to somberly, humbly apologize. “Gladys, I’m sorry for all the times I chided you about your Jesus. I promise I will never do that again.” Then smiling brightly, “Since your Jesus is now my Jesus too.”
Greg stood as he lifted Gladys up into his arms. As Greg explained, they hugged, they laughed, then cried soft tears of joy.
Seeing their tears, Johnny and Katie had come running up to them with puzzled looks on their faces. “What’s going on?” they had asked.
Papa Greg grinned while Gladys wiped a joyful tear from the corner of her eye. “It’s wonderful—papa’s part of the family—the family of God!”
“Oh,” Johnny said like he understood, but he didn’t. Yet he accepted it as good and went back to playing ball with Katie who, although still puzzled, followed big brother in thinking–all is well!
This story is a fictionalization. Although, historical events, people and places are used fictitiously, details of the time period have been portrayed as accurately as possible for authenticity. All characters are fictional unless otherwise noted.