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SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

I wanted so badly last weekend to write a blog called “I Know a Secret!” or better yet, since it was the Fourth of July, “Red, White and…Pink or Blue?” Yep, that’s right—(sing-song) somebody’s having a baby! I’m free to tell it this week (they can’t keep a secret any better than I can!)

You could have knocked me over with a feather! Laurie and I were talking on the phone last Saturday and discussing their plans to celebrate this most American of all holidays down there in Ecuador with Fernando’s family. They were having a cookout, complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, s’mores and apple pie among other yummy treats. We talked about favorite family recipes she’d be using— Grandma’s potato salad and apple pie, my beans, her aunts’ pretzel salad—and then she casually said, “We’re not going to get the kids any sparklers or fireworks, though. We’ll have our fireworks in February.”

Huh? “Fireworks in February?” I was confused. “What are you talking—What?! No! You’re not saying what I think you’re saying, are you, Laurie? You’re not—you are! You’re pregnant!” I stammered. For a moment I was speechless. Laurie was laughing, and then I realized she had put me on speaker-phone because in the background I could hear the kids all laughing, too. “You’re having a baby?”

I hardly knew what to say at first. My first thought was concern for my daughter. This was baby number six, and she would be forty years old when it came. I’ve always been thrilled to welcome new grandbabies into the world, but I have to admit, I get scared for my daughters when it comes time for the delivery. And how would she handle six children now with all that she has to do—especially the home-schooling? It was already stressful. These thoughts raced through my head, but within moments I set them aside and said, “Well, praise the Lord! Babies are such a blessing!”

“Thanks, Mom,” I heard Fernando say quietly. “Thanks for saying that.”

I knew what he and Laurie were thinking. There would be criticism from some folks at this news. Large families are not in style—even in Ecuador–anymore. They’re expensive. How could a missionary family afford to have so many children? Why couldn’t they be satisfied with the children they already have and just stop?

I must confess—I had been less than enthusiastic with the news that babies number four and five were on the way. I had quickly seen, though, that Katie and Matthew were such special, precious, wonderful little gifts and had blessed our lives immeasurably. I could not imagine the pure joy we would have missed out on if they had not been sent by God to our family. Laurie and Fernando were just as surprised as we were that God had chosen to bless them again with another child. If He saw fit to bless this world with another precious little Naranjo, then who were we to question His wisdom? He has a special plan for that life! And you have to admit—He certainly makes beautiful little Naranjos, inside and out!

This time I would not question. I’d learned my lesson. The news of a new grandbaby deserves to be met with joy and excitement—and it was. Oh, I’m still concerned for Laurie, but I have to place those fears in the Lord’s hands for He knows what He is doing.

Of course, I was full of questions. When did you find out? How far along are you? Have you figured out the due date? Which would you rather have—a boy or a girl? Have you thought about names yet? And then, of course, I could not resist teasing Laurie and Fernando about having a baby in their old age—just like Abraham and Sarah! “Just think, Laurie—you’ll be almost as old as I was when I became a grandma!” I joked. By the time we were Fernando’s age, we had three grandchildren!

She laughed. “Don’t remind me! We’ve already been calling ourselves Abraham and Sarah!”

It was just by coincidence (???) that I happened to read the account of Abraham and Sarah this week in my Bible-reading. I’ve been reading in Genesis and I came to chapters 17 through 21 where it recounts the story of the announcement by the Lord that He would bless them with a son, despite their old age, and make of them a great nation and nations. The passage goes on to tell of the birth of Isaac and the fulfillment of God’s promise—and their reactions to it.

Genesis 17:1, 5, 6, 15-17, 19; 18:12-15; 21:6 tells the story: And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him…Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. …And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.

Their reactions to this unexpected announcement and the miraculous birth of their baby boy? They laughed! But there is laughter—and then there is laughter. Abraham’s reaction to the Lord’s promise to him seemed to be one of wonderment! He was ninety-nine years old, but he would father this miraculous son! The Lord Himself had made the announcement to him—how could he doubt it?

Sarah, on the other hand, did doubt. For many years it had been her all-consuming desire to have a child until finally her body had gone through menopause and she knew with a bitter finality that it was not to be. She was old. When she laughed, it was in disbelief and bitterness. Then, to make matters worse, when the Lord asked why she had laughed, she denied it. She tried to lie to the Lord—the One who knew her heart better than she did herself. He, in his forgiveness and grace, however, kept His promise and a year later Sarah bore a son, despite her age and the fact that her body was long-past the capability of conceiving a child.

Sarah laughed again—this time in joy at the birth of her little miracle son. And she named him the name that God Himself had chosen—Isaac—“He will laugh.”

Reading the story all over again reminded me that God has a purpose for each life that He brings into this world, and that the birth of a baby is a blessing and a gift from God and should be met with rejoicing and wonder and thanksgiving—and yes, laughter!

I was reminded also of another truth—nothing is too hard for the Lord! Sarah had become discouraged and bitter and hopeless as the years went by and her greatest desire and prayer was not granted by the Lord. She could not see that the greater miracle was about to happen, not only in the fact that she would miraculously conceive, but also in the fact that through this son, all the world would someday be blessed, for Jesus’ humanity would come through the line of Abraham and Isaac and their descendents.

God’s timetable is not always what we would desire. He does not always work in our lives in the way that we would choose or expect, but never doubt that He is at work! I must not be discouraged when time slips away and it seems that God does not hear my prayers. I should never lose hope, even when things seem impossible in my finite, human wisdom. He is still the God of miracles, and when I trust Him, He brings unexpected joy and laughter into my life! Is anything too hard for the Lord?

I was sharing these thoughts with my other daughter Julie later that day. As I recognized the discouragement and hopelessness in Sarah over the years as she had begged God for a child, I could not help think of Julie and David’s long journey on the road to adoption. It was easy to get discouraged. At times it seemed hopeless—that it was never going to really happen. I wanted to encourage her. “Look at Sarah! After her despair and hopelessness, God worked a miracle and brought joy and laughter! “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

“Mom, I read the exact same message this morning in my devotions! ” she exclaimed That must be our word from the Lord today—is anything too hard for God?

*
They are good words to remember. When things seem hopeless; when the desires of our hearts seem to go unfulfilled; when the years have slipped by and it does not seem that God hears or cares—He is working in our lives. The miracle may yet come—but if it does not, He can change the desires of our heart to be in line with His will. Be open to His timing and working in your life. Regardless of how He works, you just may be surprised with unexpected joy and laughter!

THE STUPIDS STEP OUT

Many, many years ago someone in our family brought home a ridiculous little children’s book called The Stupids Step Out. It was the first in a series about the Stupid Family and their confusion in accomplishing the simplest of tasks and understanding the simplest of concepts. We laughed at the Stupids’ idiosyncrasies and well, stupidity, but unfortunately, we also recognized there is an awful lot of the Stupids in us from time to time! Now whenever we have one of those foolish moments when we are caught in public doing something ridiculous, we laugh and say, “Well, the Stupids step out!”

My sister Cheree and I somehow tend to feed off each other and promote public stupidity when we are together. We also call them our “Lucy and Ethel moments.” It’s hard to say which one of us is Lucy and which is Ethel, but one of us will usually lead the other into trouble and the other sister will blindly follow. Then we laugh our heads off at ourselves – and continue to giggle at the memories of those moments for years to come.

For instance, there was the time we were in a department store and Cheree asked, “Which way do we go?” We were standing next to the escalator and I answered, “Up there.” No sooner had she put her foot on the first step, though, when I said, “No wait! It’s that way!” Too late – one of Cheree’s feet continued to go up the escalator while the rest of her was planted firmly at the bottom, struggling to pull back and go the other way. Somehow she was stuck, and I was laughing so hard I was no help to her whatsoever.

I give Cheree a lot of credit for doing most of the driving when we travel, but we have had several “Stupids Step Out” moments on the road – like the time we got confused about which way to go and she ended up driving ‘round and around the little island upon which a traffic light stood, to the amusement, or perhaps the disgust, of all the other drivers around us. Then there was the time we were trying to go through a toll booth when the man ahead of us apparently lost part of the change he was throwing into the basket. He pulled up to the gate but the gate refused to go up. We were stuck then, too, so I suggested, “Just throw our money in and maybe the gate will lift.” Cheree did as I said, and sure enough, the gate went up. The other driver went through, but as we tried to scooch through, too, right behind him, the gate came crashing down on the roof of Cheree’s car, leaving a yellow paint streak down the roof as we went on through! Oops!

As the older sister, there have been several times when I have had to point out her “Stupid” moments. Fast food places tend to confuse her, I think. For instance, I have very sweetly (and loudly) announced to her several times, “Cheree! You threw the basket (or the whole tray) away! You’re not supposed to throw the basket (or tray) away!” Everyone in the place turns to stare. We wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on your “Stupid” moment, would we, Cheree? The best time, though, was when she paused to talk to a man as we were leaving a fast food place. “Get in, boys!” she said several times to her sons during the course of the conversation with the man. “Get in!” It suddenly dawned on me what she was doing. “Uh, Cheree,” I interrupted and gently pointed out, “look what you’re doing.” In her mind, I suppose, she was holding open the car door. In reality she was holding open the flap of the trash can and ordering Brian and Steven to get in!

I have plenty of “Stupid” moments, too, as she would be happy to share with you. There was the time we went down to Spring Mill State Park and Inn to finalize the plans for our upcoming family reunion with the director of sales. I hadn’t had much success in getting her to return my calls. “Why are you getting dressed up for this meeting?” Cheree asked. It was also supposed to be a relaxing little getaway. “I want to look professional! I want her to take me seriously this time!” I stated strongly.

Unfortunately, we didn’t look very professional when a little while later we had another one of those Lucy and Ethel moments. We were trying to take a huge luggage cart out to the car to bring in our suitcases and cooler when we went through a wrong door. What we had taken for an exit turned out to be a stairwell, and somehow we got the cart stuck, unable to move forwards or backwards. “Do you ladies need some help?” a voice behind us asked. “Oh, no! We’ll get it,” we answered with only a harried, hot and sweaty glance at the speaker. We were sure people were wondering why anyone would try to take a cart up the stairs, rather than the elevator. We struggled for a bit longer, laughing at ourselves in this ridiculous situation, until finally a man came along and we gave into his offer of help.

A little later, as we waited in the lobby for our appointment, a lady walked by and Cheree said, “I think that’s the woman who caught us stuck in the stairwell! I’ll bet anything she’s the woman we’re supposed to be meeting!” My heart sank, but I said, “No way! That can’t be her! Oh, my goodness – if it is her, I hope she doesn’t recognize us!” A couple minutes later she came back and asked, “Are you Cynthia and Cheryl? I’m Tanya! We have an appointment, don’t we? And aren’t you the two ladies who were stuck in the stairwell?” She started to laugh. So much for professionalism and being taken seriously! What could we do, but laugh with her – and then Cheree tattled on me and my earlier remarks!

To make matters worse, a couple days later I had to call Tanya and ask her if she could see if I’d left my phone charger there. “Just a minute,” she laughed. “I have your sister on the other line asking if I can look for her glasses she left behind!” Lucy and Ethel!

I could go on and on with our “Stupids Step Out” stories – some of which are just too gross to share! We come by it naturally, I suppose. My mother has those moments from time with her friends or daughters, and I have them with my girls, too. We’re certainly not the only Stupids stepping out, though! Julie just told me the other day of a story she heard at the post office, which is what started me thinking about this whole thing to begin with…

She was standing in line behind a woman who was chatting with the clerk, and Julie and the other customers couldn’t help hearing their conversation. “I was just at WalMart,” the woman confessed, “and I was standing in a food aisle. The only other person in the aisle was a man. Suddenly he asked, ‘What’s for supper?’ I turned around to see who he was talking to, and since there was no one else there, I timidly replied, ‘Macaroni and cheese.’ He asked, ‘What?’ I spoke up a little louder, ‘Macaroni and cheese!’ He looked at me strangely, and again said, ‘What?’ Thinking perhaps he was deaf or maybe mentally challenged, I moved right into his personal space and repeated very loudly, ‘I said – Macaroni and cheese!!’ The man said, ‘Uh, just a minute, Mike! I’ll have to get back to you. There’s a handicapped woman here who seems desperate for some macaroni and cheese!’ It was then that I noticed he had a Bluetooth in his ear and he wasn’t speaking to me at all! I was mortified, but he disappeared around the corner of the aisle and a moment later was back, shoving a box of macaroni and cheese into my hands! Feeling too foolish to even try to explain, I quickly took the box of macaroni and cheese to the checkout and paid for it, even though I really didn’t need it at all!”

By this time, all the customers and clerks in the post office were practically rolling on the floor laughing. It was after she left that the clerk told them all, “This is the same lady who last week told me she had accidentally barged into a funeral procession and was so embarrassed that she turned on her lights and followed the other cars all the way to the cemetery!” Julie said she couldn’t help giggling about it every time she thought about it, and that night as she relayed the story to me we were both laughing till we cried.

Ahh, the Stupids! Perhaps you know one or two – or perhaps you are one, yourself! We all have those moments, and we can’t always blame them on getting old, either! It certainly helps if you can laugh at yourself! And why not? If everyone around us is laughing, we might as well join them! I’ve always considered myself a fairly intelligent person – until the Lord has His ways of keeping me humble!

God has a sense of humor, I just know it! Look at the humor in His creation – all His funny-looking creatures on land and sea, and their funny behavior, both instinctual and practical. And then there are humans. The Bible tells us that God created us in His image. If He did not have a sense of humor, neither would we! The Bible tells us that happiness, joy and merriment are good things! “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance…” (Psalm 15:13) “…he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15) “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22)

We can laugh at the Stupids, both fictional and those who walk among us, but let us not confuse these occasional moments of silliness with what God calls foolishness. There are Stupids, and then there are Fools. God calls one a Fool who:

Does not believe He exists. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. (Psalm
14:1)
Blasphemes His name. …the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. (Psalm 74:18)
Despises wisdom. …fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Is shameful. …shame shall be the promotion of fools. (Proverbs 3:35)
Lies and slanders. He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander,
is a fool.
(Proverbs 10:18)
Thinks he is above God’s standards. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…
(Proverbs 12:15)
Makes a mockery of sin. Fools make a mock at sin… (Proverbs 14:9)
Is quick to anger. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly… (Proverbs 14:17)
Speaks foolishly. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
(Proverbs 18:7)
Causes trouble. It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be
meddling.
(Proverbs 20:3)
Loves his sin. As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
(Proverbs 26:11)
Turns away from God. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as
God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish
heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
(Romans
1:21, 22)

These are just some of the traits of a Fool in God’s eyes. The Bible goes on to tell us that the carnal man, in all his worldly “wisdom,” human strength and might thinks that the things of God, His word and His people are foolishness and weakness. I Corinthians 1:18-31 says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

God, though, tells us that it is the worldly man who is foolish. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men.” (I Corinthians 3:18-21)

The apostle Paul called himself a fool for Christ’s sake. (I Corinthians 4:10). I may be a Stupid sometimes, but if I must be a Fool, may it always be a fool for Christ’s sake!