When I was little my grandparents lived in the tiny town of Hardwick, CA. I have so many memories of their little house and yard. Grandma had a cactus garden, forbidden to all the kids, which of course made us want to wander through at every stolen moment (and I remember well the sting of prickles when I couldn’t resist touching the “furry” ones!) Grandpa loved to walk me through his large garden and show me what was “coming in.” He was always especially proud of his big, round, red tomatoes that he would pluck warm from the vine and eat on the spot. Even now I can call up the scent of that garden, the water-soaked little ditches and grandpa pulling away dead leaves and cutworms in his uniform of jeans, khaki long-sleeved shirt and straw hat.
My grandparents were always good to me and I spent many nights sleeping over at their house. I watched with fascination as grandma would let down her bun at night and unwind her surprisingly long, thin hair. She had bottom-drawer treasures like dried rattlesnake rattles, corncob dolls and confederate money. I loved my grandma….but I was grandpa’s girl.
Every time I walked in their tiny kitchen and the heart of their four-room home (a later addition of an attached bathroom made it five!), every time, without fail, I would be greeted by these words by my grandpa, “Well, come on in, sugar….can I get you some buttermilk?”
I don’t know if you’ve actually had the opportunity to drink a glass of buttermilk, but if you have, I’m pretty sure you still remember it. Think milk….but thicker….and sour…and lumpy. Mmmmm……? I hated the stuff! I tried to like it, I really did, but I just couldn’t make myself. So how did I answer when the inevitable question came? “Sure, Grandpa, I’ll take some.” Every. Single. Time. (But I did always ask for a small glass!)
I not only took the glass, but I actually looked forward to the horrid stuff. I couldn’t have articulated why when I was a kid – but now I know that I just loved him so much, I wanted to do anything that would make him happy, and giving me that little jam juice glass of buttermilk seemed to make him very happy. I think it brought him joy to be able to serve me, (looking back, he probably really didn’t know what to do with a little girl!) and I know it made me feel very special and loved. A little queasy….but very, very loved!
Today I was Birthday-Bombed at work. I am usually among the first to arrive in the morning, and today was no exception. As I unlocked doors and headed toward my desk where it was still mostly dark, I spied something moving….and even in the dim lighting, I could make out balloons, bobbing in the air from the vents above. Closer inspection revealed not one, but two balloon arrangements, along with “Happy Birthday” banners, a party horn and a big blue bow. It came as a complete surprise; today isn’t my birthday. In fact, I don’t even “get” a birthday this year as there’s no 29th on the calendar. (Yup….I’m that person.) I had heard no whispers of signing cards or shushing of co-workers when I came near – it was a complete surprise. (Well done, guys!)
My husband, who we have already established is quite adorable, always walks me to the car in the morning and gives me a kiss in the driveway before I hop in the car and head to work. We had been chatting all friendly and cheery when, just as I was about to climb in the car, something about this being my birthday weekend came up, and there it came…..the wave. Holidays are such emotional triggers when you’ve lost a family member. Quick tears filled our eyes as we just looked at each other and shook our heads. No words needed….just shared grief and the feeling that things will never be the same……
That’s how I was feeling as I walked into work this morning. And then I saw the Birthday Bomb. And I was back in that tiny little kitchen in Hardwick being asked by my Grandpa if I wanted a glass of buttermilk. I wasn’t sure I could do it at first, and then I dropped my purse, stood in the middle of my “party”, and I felt…..so very, very loved. Throughout the morning the party kept growing as in came a huge cake to feed the entire staff (and tasted ever so much better than buttermilk!), more food, cards and a serenade of “Happy Birthday” and lots of laughs and hugs. At first I was a little embarrassed by all the fuss for just me (usually birthdays are celebrated in groups) but then I wondered if this was their way of serving….of loving at a time when it’s really hard to know what that should look like. However it was intended, I just know I am grateful for their gift, and the chance to reclaim a bit of celebration.
Serving people was one of Jesus’ specialties. He taught them, he fed them, he healed them and most of all….he loved them. And because his spirit is alive in us, we are not only called to do the same, but we are blessed to do the same. My life was touched today, by a group of good people who had no idea what they had done for me would go much deeper than an office party, but God knew what my heart needed, and He gave me a beautiful gift of hope that the future is in His hands, and I can trust Him to take care of even my grief.
Grandpa gave me buttermilk. My friends gave me birthday cake. And I am blessed.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”