Me at age four (right) and my sister,
Jo Anne, seven, all dressed up for Easter.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock." (Rev. 3:20)

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 puzzling book.

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 carefully printed:

"Happy Birthday, Jesus.
Love, Debbie."

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 Danielski

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