Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Agreement/Disagreement (01/19/12)
TITLE: Where Two or Three are Gathered
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Six-year-old Andrea stood with her feet frozen in an emotional sludge of disgrace marbled with fear. She’d said exactly what she meant. And she’d meant exactly what she said. Grandma just didn’t agree.
Andrea's Grandma was a robust, businesslike woman of German descent. When the courts ruled that Andrea should no longer live with her mother, her father’s mother gained custody by default.
“Oh, I suppose I’ll take her,” she growled when asked to become Andrea’s guardian. “Nothin’ about this child I can’t handle.”
Initially Andrea was happy with the arrangement. She seemed much safer at Grandma’s where there were no loud parties in the middle of the night or mean male visitors. And, she had plenty to eat at Grandma’s.
However, in time Andrea realized this woman who held her at arm’s length merely tolerated her, for in Grandma’s mind, children were to be seen and not heard. Although reasonably safe, Andrea continued to be emotionally abandoned.
One day Andrea dared to voice a request. “I really want to visit Aunt Marty this summer, if it’s okay with you. She said I could come.” Aunt Marty’s barn kitties and noisy old donkey seemed like idyllic companions compared to the dusty knick-knacks in Grandma’s stale house. “I mean, I like living here, but … but I just want to go … and do something … different …”
Grandma overreacted, erupting like Mount Saint Helens, spewing verbal lava everywhere. After accusing Andrea of double-talk, she criticized her aunt. “Marty! Can’t trust that woman any farther than you can throw her! Cut out of the same cloth as your mother, I tell you! You don’t mean it, Andrea. You don’t know what you’re asking. The answer is no. Absolutely not.” She stormed out of the room in a classic huff.
It was true that Aunt Marty was strange. She could throw her head back and cackle like a giddy hen without cause, and she seemed addicted to her vintage camera and secretive darkroom. She talked incessantly, and complained of allergies all year. But despite Aunt Marty’s peculiarities, Andrea loved her. There were no emotional volcanoes at Aunt Marty’s house, and you didn’t have to guess how you might be treated. What you saw was what you got.
A single tear streamed down Andrea’s face as she clutched her well-loved teddy bear, Ralph, and crawled into her special sanctuary under the dining room table. With Grandma’s lace tablecloth hanging to the floor like a veil, it was quiet and shadowy there – a holy place.
She began to pray, just as she’d learned at a neighborhood Vacation Bible School. “Jesus, help Grandma change her mind.” She hugged Ralph and kissed the top of his head. “I really do want to go to Aunt Marty’s.”
Grandma’s calico cat, Snickers, dipped beneath the lace tablecloth, entered the holy-of-holies, and rubbed against Andrea’s arm as if to agree. “Where two or three are gathered, there I am,” Andrea whispered, remembering a Bible memory verse.
Just then, the telephone rang.
“Hello?” Andrea could hear her Grandmother’s voice clearly. “Why hello, Suzanne!” There was a long pause. “Yes … oh, is that right?” Another pause. “REALLY? A retreat? Well, I’d need to make plans for Andrea before committing.” After a few seconds, Grandmother coughed nervously and hurriedly continued. “OH, no, no, no … um, actually I have an idea. Marty has asked Andrea to visit, so that could work just fine!”
After Grandma hung up, the seconds dragged like hours as Andrea, Ralph, and Snickers continued to pray. “Please Jesus, thank you Jesus, please Jesus …”
Before long Andrea heard Grandma’s voice again. “Hello? Marty?” There was another very long pause, perhaps as Marty launched into one of her long-winded orations. Finally Grandma spoke again. “Yes, that’s all very nice … but I have a question. Could Andrea come stay with you in July while I attend a retreat with Suzanne? It would help me out a lot … and I don’t think she’d be any trouble at all.”
Andrea, Ralph, and Snickers huddled together, praying. And the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth was with them, and answered them.
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