I often like to write about my grandmother, Nano. Such a simple woman, born in a time when Oklahoma was still a territory and men still wore their Civil War trousers--when there were no telephones, electricity, and people still heated their homes with wood or cow chips. Her lifetime would span several decades of incredible changes. when America was slowly cutting the pioneering roots that had propelled its people ever westward in search of lands and riches, or just a place to "start new".
Like most, she and my grandfather were farmers that had left the south after the Civil War and were surviving on the uncertain income that came from grain crops and cattle. But there was always the possibility that drought might wither the wheat or a sudden hailstorm flatten it before the combines were needed, or that the herd would have to be sold off for almost nothing when there was not enough feed. It happened many, many times.
I can remember one summer when a plague of locusts the size of a man's finger came in a black cloud and devoured every green leaf and even ate the clothes hanging on the clothes line; when a tornado ripped the watertank off its foundation and the windmill disappeared. When torrential rains swelled the creeks and they were isolated for days....all this before the days of public handouts and crop insurance...
Despite those hard times, on the kitchen table Nano always left a plate of biscuits left over from breakfast. Throughout the day, when hunger pangs gnawed, there they were...ready for a spoon of jam or a little butter. I could count on that plate of biscuits being there. As yet I did not understand how frightening it is when there is no money to rebuild a barn blown away by a tornado or when hailstones flattened the ripening wheat crop. Nano sheltered me from those fears, and a biscuit on the table told me not to worry---another plate would be there tomorrow. I think about those days and wonder about their ability to survive it all with such calm resolution. Somehow, someway, they managed.
Years later a question darted through my mind: how could Nano keep making biscuits day after day without wanting to quit the practice? Wouldn't she be tempted to sit down and cry during the difficult times, or stay in bed doing nothing? Didn't she worry and grieve in her heart when rolling out the dough and using the cookie cutter? Why not give up?
I think I solved that puzzle by watching her make curtains out of flour sacks, hooking rugs out of scrap clothing and lye soap from the bacon drippings. You see, Nano knew there was purpose in everything, and nothing was without purpose. And there was purpose in a plate of bisquits.
Corrie Ten Boom wrote in her book, "Each New Day":
"It has been said that the removal of small stones which frequently encumber the fields does not always increase the crop. In many soils they are an advantage, attracting the moisture and radiating the heat. In an experiment the results of removing the stones were so unfavorable to the crop that they were brought back again. We often cry to God as Paul did, for the removal of some thorn in the flesh. Later experience teaches us that it was better for it to remain--"
Decades later, I sit here thinking of these things. I can see how easy a life I live in this century. I realize that I am blessed beyond reason because of WHERE I live. Billions of other "Nanos" still toil and struggle just to put a bowl of rice in front of their children. My hands are not calloused and my back is still straight. I draw clean water from my own well by merely turning a tap inside my warm house. The local hospital stands ready with the latest technology to extend my years; I have two computers, a cell phone, a library of good books, two televisions, a vehicle to take me wherever I desire to go, a house that belongs to me, an acre of land to landscape with flowers and trees of my own choosing. And yet I also live in a time when all around me "men's hearts fail them for fear of the things they see coming upon the earth". There are so few bisquits on tables anymore...
Abundance never teaches us the valuable lessons we only learn through struggle. For only after the struggle, we might come to understand that all along, the struggles were the true riches. And that is why, when I pass Nano's kitchen table in my memory, I always look for the biscuit plate.
"It isn't bread that feeds you; it is life and the Spirit that feed you through bread..."