Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Angels and Kool-Aid

She was a slender, tall, older lady with a big smile and immediately welcomed us into her home. We were standing on the porch, looking through the glass double doors of the great big house. Her wavy, gray hair was pulled back into some kind of twist in the back, and there was a sparkle in her eyes that drew me in. Her accent was Dutch, and there was a sing-songy way in which she spoke. She had a gold tooth which sparkled when she smiled. Her dress was always long and flowing, covered by an apron with a big bow tied in the back. She stepped out onto the porch where we were standing, bent down to where she could look straight into our eyes, gave us each a hug and welcomed us. It was genuine. I could just feel it. And I liked her immediately. I was about 9 years old. And I needed someone to like.

Mrs. Gravendyk was her name. She and her husband lived in a big, old Victorian home and had started a house church there. And I was there for Vacation Bible School --- about the third one of the summer that I had been sent to. My younger sister came with me, along with a few other neighborhood friends. The house was set back, giving room to a big front yard. A few steps led from the city sidewalk up to the walk leading to the house. A huge wrap-around porch with a white railing graced the front of the house. Big, heavy slabs of slate made the steps up to the porch interesting and inviting. It was here we waited each day for Mrs Gravendyk to open the doors. 9:00 am. No sooner. No later.

The meetings were held in the basement of the home, so down the steep, narrow steps we went. There were several rooms divided off, and one had lots of little chairs, a piano, and a flannel graph board all set up and ready to go. Pipes ran along the ceilings, and someone had already attached strings to these pipes. I felt important when I found a string with my name on it. Mrs. Gravendyke came over, put her arm around me and told me that I had “caught” 5 fishes for my string as I had brought with me 5 people. I felt sooooo important! The theme of the week was “Fishers of Men.”

I loved it there. I loved the new songs I learned. ( Of course, we sang, “I will make you Fishers of Men“ at least once every day ---- with all the hand motions!) I loved Mrs. Gravendyk’s enthusiasm as she played the piano and sang. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone play “The Assurance March” like she could! I loved her Kool-aid and cookies, the little crafts we made and the way she told stories. But most of all, I loved the little church --- the sanctuary that I had supposed was once a large library or living room. I stood in awe of what I saw there, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

Mr. Gravendyk was an artist and painted murals on the walls of this home. All of them portayed some Bible scene. The one in the sanctuary was my favorite. There were two cliffs divided by a very deep cavern. But stretched across this cavern was a cross. And there were all these little people walking on this cross across the cavern to the side that portrayed the city in gold. There were angels protecting those who were making the crossing. I don’t remember much of what went on when we went into that sanctuary. I was taken by the mural on the wall.

Vacation Bible School came and went, but my sister and I continued to visit with this unique old lady. She gave us permission to play in her huge back yard. All that was there was a tire hanging from a thick rope and we would swing for hours on that thing.

And then, like clockwork, she would come with a few glasses, a pitcher of Kool-aid and some cookies, and we sat on her steps and enjoyed her company and treats. Sometimes we would go inside. And she always let us see the murals.

I felt safe there. There is no other word to describe it. Perhaps it was the ONLY place during that period of my life where I did feel safe. In the darkest of nights, when I closed my eyes so tightly, I saw that cross, and the shiny gold city, and the angels -- and I wished that just one had been there for me.

We moved away shortly after this summer of tire swings and Vacation Bible school. But I never forgot Mrs. Gravendyk. Angels? Perhaps it was this very lady who was sent for such a brief time to add a little light and safety to my steps. I know one thing: Every time I sang the song, “The way of the cross leads home,” I could see that painting on the wall, and I thought of one little old Dutch lady who was faithful to her Lord with Kool aid and cookies.


Paula said...

Beautiful story, Cora- this gave me goosebumps!
This is such a wonderful reminder of how sometimes small acts can make such a big difference in someones' life- especially a child!

dsblanchard said...

Dear Cora,

Decades upon decades after this happened you tell this story with minute detail. This really impressed upon me how important some relationships become to others, and we're never sure which ones are THE ones. I guess we best be our best as often as we can. Thanks for this heart-felt reminder.


Kristin Bridgman said...

Oh Cora, you reeled me right in! You described everything so well, I felt I could see it all in my mind. I read on some writers digest website that is the mark of a great writer when the reader forgets they are reading and feel they are right there witnessing it all. That is what you did here:)
And what a wonderful lady you knew back then. We just never know how what we do or say will impact another. I'm glad God brought you to her when He did :)
Thank you for sharing this. I can't wait to read more from you.

Lea said...

Mmm Cora!! Mrs Gravendyke is wonderful! I can't wait to meet her one day. I agree with Kristen... your writing is INCREDIBLE!!!!

I'm so glad you had this woman in your life and thank you for sharing with the world what you saw and learned through her. Once again, I am leaving Hidden Riches from secret places, having been deeply touched.
God bless you all over my friend!
Angels, Cookies, Koolaid and eagle wings xoxo

Nancy said...

So much to say in this tiny little comment box. What a beautiful picture you've painted of this dear, Dutch saint! I could just see and hear her; I could feel the love of Jesus flowing through her. I can't wait to see how many of us in heaven were drawn there through flannelgraphs, cookies, and Kool Aid.

Thanks for your kind words at my place and JoAnn's. They led me here, and I'm so grateful. Blessings, Cora.

Beth in NC said...

That is precious! What a wonderful story. I felt like I was there with you!

Paula said...

Oh if I could only reach out and make a difference in one life as this lady made in yours..

Miz Liz said...

Powerful memory, Cora!! It is good to be reminded to connect the dots from the dark, frightening days of long ago to today's trail where I still don't have all the answers. I'm glad you remember your angels; you've helped me recall mine; and I give thanks.Without those saints--many of whom had no idea the depth of their ministry--my own struggle would have been harder. You are a huge blessing in my VERY senior years.Some of these days would be darker without the guidance of my cyber angels. Thank you !!!