The Willow Tree, The offering & The Sentiment.

I remember when I was very young, we had this enormous weeping willow tree off the back patio. It provided the yard with  most of its shade. Us kids (my two brothers and sister) and our friends, used to climb the tree and rest in it’s huge limbs.  We would gather handfuls of the loose Willow branches and swing as far as they would take us.  Depending on how high we placed our hands on the willow would decide on whether or not our feet would drag the ground or if we would swing several feet off the ground.  We’d spend many an hours playing in and around that ole’ tree each day.   Our farm, Weeping WillowThe photo above is one of our weeping willows, but not the one we swung on.

That willow tree had to be at the very least one hundred years old, but the size of it’s trunk was about ten feet around at it’s base. I’ve always heard that willows only grow near water.  The nearest creek  bed was at the end of our long driveway (about a city block away).

Along the creek on our property, were other trees of course and also wild berry bushes. We had honeysuckle, strawberry,  blackberry and raspberries galore.  There were apple trees too. They made for an instant healthy and refreshing snack whenever we felt inclined to eat!

We had 14 acres and most were lined with trees keeping it private.  Our home sat on somewhat of a hill. The walks to and from the school bus each day were rather long.  Of course, like any normal kid, the walk to school would generally feel longer than the walk home.   We caught the bus for Elementary school Monday through Friday and then again for Sunday school/church.  I Looked forward to the Sunday bus rides.  It was always a happy trip across town.  We lived in the Township which was rural farmlands, and the Church was in the boro (borough) or “in town”.   It was several miles away.

Waiting for The Sunday School busOur Sunday school bus driver was a friendly and sweet old man ….though in retrospect, he wasn’t really old at all.   He (Mr. Stall) always had a smile on his face and greeted each of his passengers by first name.  He always made conversation with everyone, as not to leave anyone out.  Each bus ride ended in a few packs of “Smarties” candies being squeezed lovingly into each of our hands.  While now writing this, I am  acknowledging my lifelong enjoyment of those candies, and the fact that Mr. Stall and his kindness played a part in my enjoyment of them!

For Christmas, Mr. Stall handed out gift wrapped full sized boxes of “special” treats.  They were either one of two kinds.   My favorite was the “Starlite” solid chocolate’s.  They were sweet milk chocolate drops that were raised into the shape of a star.  Brach’s makes a similar version.  The others were Non-Pareils.  Pea sized dark chocolate coated with white flavored dots.  They were tasty too.  Occasionally, I will have these at the movie theaters, but nowhere, other than from my early childhood Sunday school bus driver (Mr. Stall), have I ever found the Starlite chocolates.  He made them unique!

 At the end of our driveway on each side of it’s entrance were Queen Ann’s lace flowers.  I remember them being so delicate.  So feminine.  So, country.  Most were spread wide open and looked like living doilies.  They bloomed from the wild…they weren’t planted by Mom.  Amongst the doilies would be a few closed ones that resembled cups, or pockets.

Getting on our Sunday School BusI recall (with much regret), a few times that I hid my Sunday offering (a quarter) in the closed flower and retrieved it on the walk home after being dropped off from the bus.  I felt horrible when I didn’t place my quarter in the offering basket.  It played in my mind throughout service.   I remember an overwhelming feeling of guilt, as I said my goodbye to Mr. Stall.   I think I felt so guilty because he was so generous and most caring, and he was the one who brought me (safely) to and from Church each Sunday.

The walk up the drive would be the longest and hardest of all; carrying that quarter.  The quarter that was meant to be given as an offering to God.  I let him down.  I would feel guilt and sadness for quite  awhile.   I don’t know why I did it.   I don’t know what I used the quarters for or even where I put them.  It had always bothered me as a child.  I know I have said I am sorry over the years as I always do when I make a mistake.  I know in my heart, I had been forgiven.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

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