“Should I make whoopie pies for you for Christmas?” questioned my husband.
My mouth began to water before I could even answer. “I would love that.” My mother made these special treats for us at Christmas time while growing up in Pennsylvania. Here in Minnesota if one mentions Whoopie pies, he is met with quizzical looks. So, what is a whoopie pie? It is two round mound-shaped pieces of cake with a sweet cream filling sandwiched between them. According to “What’s Cooking America?”, they have their origins with the Amish in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This dessert springs from my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.
Hubby was trying to explain this foreign delight to his employee, Alex, just a few days before Christmas. But an explanation of its goodness does not begin to compare with the actual taste of the completed dessert. “Can you spare a whoopie pie to give to Alex?” he questioned.
“Of course!” I packaged one up to be delivered to him on Christmas Eve.
Alex decided that he would save the scrumptious sweet to share with his wife at home. However, his just-turned-three-year-old son and six-year-old daughter needed to be picked up from Grandma and Grandpas before heading for home. And then the questions began, “Dad, what’s that?”, “Can we eat it?
Alex scrambled to come up with a plan that would leave the whoopie pie for him and his wife to enjoy. A brilliant idea occurred to him. It was Christmas Eve after all.
“How about we save the whoopie pie to put out for Santa Claus tonight?” He encouraged the young ones with a laugh.
As bedtime approached, Son and Daughter excitedly helped carry the whoopie pie, some other cookies, and a glass of milk to the coffee table by the Christmas tree.
“Time for bed. Santa can’t come until you are asleep.”
Both excited children were soon tucked in bed and the adults sat talking in the kitchen. As the minutes ticked by, Alex realized that his young son had not appeared in the doorway as was the ritual that occurred on other nights. That’s strange. I better go check on him.
The room was quiet as he approached it. Peeking into the dimly lit room, he noticed Son perched in the corner of the room with his feet tucked under him. Brown crumbs stuck to his cheeks and littered the floor around him.
“Did you eat the Whoopie pie?”
A vigorous shaking of the head back and forth followed the question. “No, I didn’t eat it.”
But the evidence said it all and Alex knew he needed to have a discussion with the child about not telling the truth. A smile was poking at the corner of his lips, though, and he needed to escape the room. His wife would have to have this discussion. He had an overwhelming desire to laugh. How his son had gotten the goodie, he did not know. What he did know was his well laid plans for Santa and a taste of the whoopie pie had been derailed by a small child.
“Can we get together and do something, just the two of us, while you are home from college?” I plead of my daughter. She is in her first year of studying veterinary medicine at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa and I don’t get to talk to her much, let alone see her.
“You can go with me to Ames on New Year’s Day to pay my lot rent if you would like,” she replies.
“I would love that.” I am excited about spending a day with my daughter. She and her husband have purchased a trailer in a mobile home park that lies just behind the vet school. She lives there during the school year and then she comes home to Minnesota during breaks from school to spend time with her husband.
We drive the 150 miles on a crisp sunny winter day. The temperature hovers around ten degrees. The cold has moved in after a week that began with 50-degree temperatures and ended with a cold front ushered in by rain and high winds. Glare ice on the road of the trailer park greets us as we make the last turn and park by the trailer. Questions of what we will find inside swirl through our minds. Daughter has only been gone two weeks, but her furnace has this habit of going out when the wind blows. We gingerly pick our way up the ice-covered steps and press the storm door handle button. It is covered with ice and does not respond to Daughter’s touch. Great, the door is froze shut. Even a couple of fist poundings does not loosen it. Do we have any de-icer in the car? No, we don’t. Time for a well-aimed kick. This causes it to let loose enough to spring open.
Freezing cold air greets us inside. Not good! The furnace is out. A few steps to the kitchen sink and a quick test of the faucet. Both faucets offer total resistance and will not turn. Oh dear! Not only has the furnace gone out but the water is also frozen. A quick check of the bathroom reveals that the sink there puts out a small trickle, the commode flushes, and the shower runs. So maybe, the situation is not as dire as it seems. The first order of business is to relight the furnace which Daughter has become quite adept at doing. Soon, it is pumping warm air back into the rooms.
“We are going to town to buy you some backup heaters,” is my decision that I share with Daughter. I am hoping that the freezing occurred just over this last night when it turned really cold and that it is not so complete that the pipes have cracked.
Soon, we have two electric space heaters cranking out their heat along with the furnace.
“Just let the water run if it is running at all,” is the advice of my hubby, “and it usually thaws out by itself.”
“The instructions with the space heater say ‘don’t leave unattended’,” I inform Hubby by phone, “and the whole reason we bought them was to leave them unattended. What should we do?”
“They are probably OK to leave if they have a high-limit shut off on them,” is his thought, “but you should probably shut off the water and open the faucets when you leave.”
“I don’t really want to crawl under the trailer looking for the water shut-off,” Daughter storms. “I have no idea where it is.” And it is cold and miserable.
Oh, the joys of owning a trailer. “I will help you.” Together, we venture outdoors to remove some of the skirting to allow Daughter to slither under the dark dank claustrophobic causing space. “I don’t see anything,” She finally informs me. Alright, give up on that idea.
As we relax and wait for the water to thaw, a light bulb goes on in Daughter’s memory. “When I was living with the other girls, their trailer water shut-off was in the closet.” This calls for a trip to the bedroom and a removal of the panel covering the water heater in the closet. Sure enough, there it is. Inside and accessible from the warmth of the bedroom.
A couple of hours later, we really need to head for home if we are to get home in a timely manner. The kitchen sink has thawed to the point that one can turn the faucets on and off and a slow trickle of water is emerging. We are making progress. We turn off the water, leave the faucets open, and leave the space heaters set at 60 degrees. Hopefully, when she comes back in another two weeks everything will be thawed out and back to normal without any issues.
“Safe in Ames. Trying to thaw the trailer,” reads the text two weeks later on her return to Ames, “Nothing has thawed. Kitchen has pencil width. The bathroom has drips.”
Not good! This doesn’t make any sense. The temperatures have been above freezing for most of the two weeks since our trip there and the heaters kept the trailer warm even though the furnace had gone out again. “Dad wants to know if you want us to come down tomorrow and check things over.”
It is a beautiful mid-January day when we pull up at the trailer in Ames. The eves are dripping water as the latest snow melts under the warmth of the sun. A hand turn of the kitchen faucet yields only a small trickle, not even a stream as big as what was running when we left it on New Year’s Day. And now the bathroom faucet has no flow either. How perplexing!
Hubby begins a thorough investigation. The water is definitely on. He crawls under the trailer and looks around. The pipes seem well protected in the floor. There is no water dripping or worse yet, flowing. He removes the panel behind the washer and dryer but can’t see anything. None of this adds up. The water should have thawed out long ago. “You are going to have to call a plumber tomorrow as I can’t find anything wrong,” is the verdict to Daughter.
Unwilling to give up and in desperation, Hubby begins to tear the kitchen faucet apart. Surprise of surprises, brown water pours out! He quickly screws off the little aerator that covers the opening on this and most faucets. It is packed with brown sediment. A bee line to the bathroom reveals the same brown sediment obstructing the faucet there. How silly! This whole time we have had it stuck in our heads that the water is still frozen, not even considering this simple solution to what seemed to be a continuing problem but is actually a different problem. The freezing and thawing have apparently stirred up a bunch of sediment in the pipes and deposited it in the aerators. A plumber would have been laughing all the way home with a tidy sum in his pocket from such a call.
I am reminded of how much of life is often like this. We are so focused on our preconceived ideas about various things that we can’t see the truth because we are stuck in one way of thinking.
At least our journey is not in vain. We get to enjoy the day with our daughter, and she gets to start her new semester with several problems in her trailer resolved. No pipes have burst, and all is well.
June has long disappeared into July but today I was reminiscing about that month– a month that holds bittersweet memories. Both my mother and my father’s birthdays were in June. Father’s Day is in June. It is with sadness that I look back at this month. Am I sad because my parents are gone to their everlasting abode? No, but I am sad over the legacy that they left, the acceptance of responsibility never uttered, the reconciliation never achieved. In my heart I have forgiven them but there is always a certain part of unfinished business left dangling – a wondering if there is a regret in the place where they have gone.
As a result of all this, I have always struggled with the image of God that I obtained from my father – the image of a being with endless power who sternly looks down at me with condemnation and uses me arbitrarily to accomplish his desires. He does not particularly care about me and whatever “love” is shown me is offered me IF I fulfill his demands. Not a very appealing picture of our Father in heaven if that picture of my earthly father is transferred to Him. But over the years, through the genuine love and caring of my husband, I had been able to develop a picture of a God who loves us first of all, has our best interest in mind, and calls gently for us to follow Him as He wants to have a relationship with us.
My husband and I, when we got married, chose a church that preached the simple message of the gospel – the gospel that I responded to as a child in the Mennonite church. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for the sins of the whole world on a cross so that mankind might have an everlasting relationship with Him should he so choose to accept God’s gift. As a child, I accepted God’s gift of salvation and became one of His children. I had become quite comfortable in my beliefs. Everything made sense. However, a few years ago, I began to notice more people coming into our church who would talk about their lives as if they were pre-determined by God. I found that rather odd and troubling as one of the other beliefs that had been engrained in me was that we, as image bearers of God, are able to make choices in our lives that affect the course of our life. If fact, this belief is the one that allowed me to step out into the unknown in faith while escaping my father’s oppressive control. I shudder to think where I would still be today if I had believed and accepted that all of life is pre-determined from before the world began.
Several years went by during which I did not understand that the sovereignty of God was being defined as divine determinism. One day while listening to a John Piper video in Sunday School, Mr. Piper was talking about this everything being pre-determined idea when he said, “Yes, I am a Calvinist.” What’s a Calvinist? I had no idea. I went home and began researching on the internet. Whow! I was shocked with what I found and more shocked to realize that something I had hoped to never encounter was in the midst of seemingly the most evangelical of churches. It was the belief that “God is the all-determining reality: that is every single thing that happens has been rendered certain (ordained) by God because there is nothing God does not either directly or indirectly cause (including sin).”
For those of you reading this who have no idea, from this belief springs several principles outlined in Calvinism by an acronym -TULIP.
T stands for Total depravity which most Christians would agree with. We are totally sinful and cannot save ourselves. What would be in dispute would be the belief that goes along with this that we are also totally unable to believe the Gospel message without God making us believe (or regenerating us before giving us salvation).
U stands for Unconditional Election or the belief that God arbitrarily chose, through no action or attribute of the creature, before the world was formed, who He would give the gift of salvation to (predestination) and who He would “pass over” or damn to hell.
L stands for Limited Atonement or the belief that Christ died only for those who God pre-elected and not for the whole world.
I stands for Irresistible Grace or the belief that if God has chosen you to be one of His “elect” that you cannot resist His saving you.
P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. In other words, since it is already pre-determined who will be saved, one’s salvation (if so chosen) is guaranteed.