My black woolen coat makes me feel like I am a package wrapped up in tight ribbons and bows. The scarf that mother insisted I wear is hugging my neck so that it irritates me in the slightest of ways. I am warm on this frightfully bitter day.
This day, which is a Saturday, I am walking towards Mrs. Johnson’s shop again. I was sent by Mama to gather the supplies we need for Sunday’s lunch, although I will not be there this particular Sunday, as I am going to have tea with Mrs. Johnson herself. I step into the shop and, once again, I am greeted by the warmth of the fire. I love smelling the spices that hang from shelves or the candles that are scented with cinnamon.
“Hello, dear child!” Mrs. Johnson seems to come out of no where. Her skirt dances happily around her feet. I still become fidgety and uncomfortable when ever she attempts to talk to me, but at least now I have something to mention when I see her.
“Hello, Mrs. Johnson. How are you today? I’m looking forward to having tea tomorrow with you!” I try to speak excitedly.
The truth is, that I still do not want to spend time with Mrs. Johnson. I continuously here the conversation that is sure to play out. She will greet me and ask me to sit down. She will offer me tea and a small sandwich. Then she will waste no time in bringing up topics that I don’t wish to discuss. I think she is just curious about people’s lives. Maybe she is curious in a very caring way… but I can’t say that I am not bothered by it.
“I am very well, thank you. Yes, I think that we will have a wonderful time catching up… like old friends.” Mrs. Johnson smiles at me and I, again, see the joy in her face that people love. “We don’t talk enough. It is sad, truly, that friends don’t chat more. But in Heaven, there will be no end to our talk! And we will be talking about the Prince of Peace- what else is worthy enough to be talked about?”
“Wise words, Mrs. Johnson, thank you.” She must be saving her questions until tomorrow. When she is speaking lightly, she is quite an interesting person. She always has a different point of view than anyone else. She always manages to bring the Lord into every conversation. “Mrs. Johnson, are you sure that I can’t bring anything tomorrow? I would love to help, to be sure!”
She smiles and rests her hand upon my shoulder. “No dear, just bring your smiling face and sweet spirit.”
I smile in return. “I shall do that.” It’s a wonder that she thinks that I have a sweet spirit. I look back on the many times we have talked- not deeply, mind you, but just chatting- and I suddenly feel ashamed of myself. I can’t remember even one occasion where I came to her first! All of a sudden I feel an urge to converse with her- to show her that I do indeed care about her. I must say something!
“Oh, Mrs. Johnson, I wanted to ask you something.” I search around the shop frantically for inspiration.”Uh… Who wrote the verses you have hanging on your walls?” Foolish am I.
The woman’s cheerful laugh fills the small shop. “Oh my child, you need not search for something to talk about. We’ll have plenty of time to catch up tomorrow. For now, I’m sure that you something to purchase for your family’s meals.” She turned away to catch another one of her friends before they left. I watched in disbelief. I could hide nothing from her.
I walk around the store gathering what Mama called for. I slowly make my way to the front counter, and I set my basket on the table. Mrs. Johnson hums as she counts up the cost for the vegetables and herbs. I pay her the amount of money that is owed and I start to walk away after bidding her farewell. Mrs. Johnson stops me, “Lillian Jaler wrote out the beautiful verses for my shop.”
“She did an excellent job,” I said quietly. Lillian Jaler was a girl, only a year younger than I, who passed away from Influenza two years previous. The whole village mourned the loss of the sweet girl. She never forgot someone’s birthday. She never failed to ask someone how their sick relative was doing or how ‘so and so’ was. She was always the first to bring a practical gift to a new mother. She always had words from the Bible on her lips.
“Yes. Yes she did.” Mrs. Johnson’s smile was not as radiant as it almost always is. “She is missed, that dear child. But she is happier now. She is with her Savior. That is what she always wanted.” She turned away and started placing things on to shelves.
I wake up to see the sun shining brightly into my bedroom, that I share with my three sisters. My mind- still half asleep- says that it is Springtime. I wish it was. This morning, just as every other Sunday morning, my family and I follow our regular routine. We get dressed in to our Sunday clothes and then spend time together as a family praying. My family includes Papa, Mama, myself, Joy, John, Anna, Edward, Jill, Joshua, and little Gracie.
Soon, we are on our way to church. I love church. I love singing beloved hymns- hearing the congregation’s voices praise our Father in Heaven. I love watching the elders pass out the Lord’s Supper- as they are doing this Sunday. I love watching and listening Pastor preach to us- always filling us with spiritual bread. I love visiting with dear friends who are family in Christ- always hearing an encouraging word. Then, after church, I love going home and spending time with my family. I love sitting by the fire and reading my Sunday book. Right now I am reading through a book that teaches God’s promises. What an encouraging read!
However, this Sunday is different. This Sunday, I will not be going home with my family. I will be going home with Mrs. Johnson.
Mrs. Johnson again expresses her excitement of having me over for tea. I am excited too! I am happy that we have this time together. But, still I wonder, what is it that Mrs. Johnson wants to show me. I fully expect it be a verse in the Bible.
We arrive at her home in just a few short moments. She unlocks her door and, much like her shop, her home smells of spices and herbs. There are scented candles scattered about on little tables and shelves. Old books seem to be Mrs. Johnson’s pride, as there are stacks of them everywhere and some are nicely displayed on bookcases. I spot fine cloth with Bible verses embroidered on to them. There are paintings of country scenes. The warmth of the fire invites me in. I feel welcomed.
“Welcome, Katherine, to my home.” A smile lit up the aging face.
Featured image taken from Stock Snap.