The first definite symbol of the coming of spring showed up in our yard last week. On a relatively mild day, our front lawn was populated by half a dozen youngsters (I say that loosely) playing a vigorous game of softball. We sat on the front porch and watched them, mulling over the scores of children who have played their games down through the years.
At one time, we "thought" we wanted a neatly manicured lawn, with smooth green grass and well-ordered flowerbeds. That plan was swiftly scuttled when our own children got big enough to venture outside. They were soon joined by neighborhood kids and during warm weather; life consisted of one continuous ball game. Down at the old house, we had a basketball hoop installed on the front of the garage, and our days were punctuated by the thump, thump, thump of the basketball.
In the beginning, Criss mourned his lawn, "They're gonna trample all my grass out," he complained. I told him then that children are more important than a nice lawn, and I want them always to feel welcome here. And anyway, they will grow up." Yeah, they did, and they had children, and their children had children! One time an old friend, Burton Drake, passed by our house while making a delivery.
The next time I stopped in the store where he worked, he said, "Alyce, I want to ask you something--just how many children do you and Criss have?" I answered, "Well, six." He replied, "I counted 17 in the yard when I passed the other day!" The years went on, and another generation of children took their place.
Through the years, our lawn has been decorated with go-carts, four-wheelers, wagons, tricycles, bicycles, assorted dogs and playhouses. One summer some of the granddaughters and great granddaughters built a total of six playhouses all in the yard. They merrily mixed mud and water, served in old chipped dishes, and concocted lovely salads made of leaves and flowers. Now they are experimenting with make-up and new hair styles. I miss the playhouses.
Mary Ellen and I constructed many of our playhouses in various spots in the woods. Sometimes we would carpet a whole section of ground with soft, green moss. Our imaginations knew no bounds. We would carry the loot we scavenged from Graham's trash pile and Mom's discards up in the woods to build our playhouse under a canopy of green leaves. Oh, those serene days of innocent childhood!
We made fairy houses all summer long in the clay bank above the road. We set up our millinery shop on a wide, flat rock in the woods. We constructed fairy hats made of pliable leaves and decorated with wild flowers by the hour. We could imagine the delight of the fairies when they came out to dance by moonlight and discovered the hats we had made them!
Now that I am in my second childhood and no longer able to roam the woods, my thoughtful daughter-in-law, Sarah, has brought the fairy houses to me. Somewhere she found an entire fairy village, complete with fairy children, and they are exquisite. I have a toadstool house and a beehive, an acorn and a pinecone house. They are beautifully detailed, and the fairies should love them.
Criss will have to make me a special shelf for them, as my own real life elves (great granddaughters) will find them irresistible. That's the newest generation coming up—and they'll soon be old enough to make their own fairy houses. The abundant things of nature and a vivid imagination are all that is needed.
Growing up in the country is a perfect place for children to learn the basics of life. They get acquainted early with the miracle of birth, in seeing the newborn calves frolic in the meadow and the newly-hatched baby chicks peeping and scratching with their mother hovered nearby. They listen for the shrill piping of the spring peepers that herald spring's approach, and see the tiny wild flowers as they pop through the earth.
They learn about death also, when a beloved pet meets an untimely demise. These are hard lessons, but it prepares them for deeper heartaches in the future. I wouldn't trade my upbringing in the country for any amount of money. Blessed are the children who have this opportunity.
I ran across this clipping in my files, and it is so good that I want to share it.
TEN RULES FOR WORSHIP
"Worship begins as I close the door to my home. On my way, I pray for my church, for the minister, and for those who worship near and far.
"Before I enter the house of God, I pause a moment that I may cast off and leave outside all things and thoughts unbecoming to a child of my Heavenly Father: hates, grudges, fretting, worldly cares, and sinful thoughts.
"The moment I enter the door of this sacred house I cease all conversation. I come in silence, for great things arise out of quietness and minister to me and to those about me.
"As soon as I am seated, I bow my head in prayer. I pray for others as well as myself. I pray for my church and its great causes. I ask God to be near me now.
"I join in singing they hymns and bow my head during the amen. I think about the words of the sermon and let their meaning and spirit go down to the roots of my soul.
"As I lay my offering on the plate, I say a prayer of thanks for my money, and I ask God's use here and in the uttermost parts of the earth.
"Throughout the service I think of God objectively. As power, peace strength, and love, He is all I need for life as it should be.
"I listen as my minister preaches from God's word, and I seek to apply his message to my life. I pray for him as he preaches.
"When the service has ended, in Christian friendliness I speak to those I know and to those who are strangers to me.
"As I pass through the outer portals, I dedicate my life to walk this week the high road with Christ."
The plaque above the door in the church where I worship says:
ENTER TO WORSHIP—LEAVE TO SERVE