"No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man
without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck."
~~Frederick Douglass

Hi all,

Ya know, when I was 15 and we first started this... I just never thought that one day I'd be sitting down to write the 331st.  Wow! 

Now with that random moment of astonishment behind me...  Happy 4th of July to those of ya in/from the States!  I hope you enjoy the long weekend and have a wonderful celebration!

Because I'm hoping to relax some myself, I decided to keep this simple.  And for me sometimes stories are easier than top tens... especially when they're partly pre-written.  This story idea came to me as Memorial Day approached but I was too swamped to take it on then.  So it makes sense on Independence Day, too.  My feeling has always been that the Dyelanders probly celebrate the holidays of all the countries, religions, and cultures that are part of their lil group.  So a 4th of July barbecue sounded like something they might do.  Or maybe I just wanted to visualize Andrew in a Kiss Hug the Cook apron.  ;-)

God bless,


And now... a "Moment with Andrew" story...

"Never Alone"

It was a heavenly July 4th evening in the Fields of Gold.  The air was warm but not suffocatingly so.  The sun shone brightly on the lush, vibrant green grass and colorful wildflowers.  A light breeze swept through the trees where most of the adult Independence Day celebrants sat visiting.  Strains of patriotic tunes emanated from a small band stationed in the gazebo.  Light from citronella torches and candles completed the feeling of enchantment. 

As excited children chased butterflies and imagined the fireworks show to come later, JenniAnn dashed from picnic table to blanket taking dinner orders from the Dyelanders and Tunnel dwellers.  Once she'd checked with everyone, she ran to the man standing expectantly near the grill.

"All right... thus far we have orders for 21 hamburgers, 18 cheeseburgers, 5 TLS burgers, and 15 brats," JenniAnn read off of her notepad. 

"Comin' right up," Andrew responded as he began tossing patties and bratwursts onto the massive grill in front of him.  Once they had all begun to cook, Andrew smiled out at the crowd and chuckled.

"What is it?" his friend asked.

The chef shrugged.  "Nothing really.  I was just thinking about how different this is from my first American Independence Day... well, *the* first American Independence Day."

"I would imagine this is a lot more calm."

"Oh yeah..." the angel confirmed with a nod.  "And I have to say, I prefer what I'm wearing tonight to what I was wearing 235 years ago.  I was not sorry to see stockings and wigs go out of fashion!"  Andrew cringed, remembering a few ensembles he wished he could forget.  Then he grinned and, cocking his head, looked at the woman at his side.

"What?" JenniAnn asked, checking to see if she'd spilled something on herself.

"Just wonderin' what the fine people of 1776 Philadelphia would have made of you," Andrew mused, studying her ankle-length red and blue tie-dyed hippie dress complete with peace sign necklace. 

"Oh, I dunno... probly woulda wondered what the strangely clad old maid was doing clinging to the much more sensibly and gloriously dressed... in cravat, waistcoat, etc.... lovely man with huge sideburns."  JenniAnn sighed dreamily then slyly checked to see if she'd succeeded in making Andrew blush.  She smiled when she noted she had.

Andrew chuckled.  "Now there's a mental image!  And cravats... I didn't care for those, either."

JenniAnn giggled, taking a moment to admire his much more modern jeans and red button-down over white t-shirt.  "And I suppose you had no ye olde Hug the Cook apron back then?"

Andrew blushed again and glanced down at the apron he was wearing, a gift from the girls after he'd volunteered to man the grill.  It had originally read "Kiss the Cook" but after a few glares from Tess, Yva had appliquéd the word "Hug" over "Kiss."  "I did not," he responded. 

"So what was your assignment back on July 4th, 1776, anyhow?" 

"Pub keeper.  So I was cooking a lot of food that night, too.  Not very well, of course.  Thomas Jefferson never complained but John Adams... well, that's another story."  Andrew smirked as he seasoned the burgers.  "Let's just say it wasn't as much fun as cooking for friends... and after some lessons."

While Andrew focused on the grill, JenniAnn considered that the novelty of hearing him speak about history as he lived it should have worn off after eleven years.  But sometimes the momentousness of it hit her anew and, for a brief moment, made it all seem impossible.  Surely someone who had walked among the Founding Fathers couldn't *really* be standing mere inches from her...

Andrew set the spices down and caught JenniAnn looking at him as if she feared any minute he'd dissolve into a ray of light.  Not waiting for her to follow the explicit directions on his apron, he hugged her.  "Really here, Laja," he assured.

"Thank God," she praised softly.

Andrew nodded and began to silently count his own blessings.  As stunning as it was to JenniAnn that he should be there, that reality sometimes still caught the angel off-guard.  It seemed too good to be true that a bunch of humans would want him around... as often as possible... for eleven years.  But it was true and he was grateful and humbled.

Just as the two drew apart, Andrew's bid to keep JenniAnn grounded received help.  The sound of a weeping child plummeted her back to reality and immediately roused him from his musings.

The two grown-ups looked down to find Shelby staring at them with tears streaking down her cheeks.  Once she realized she'd been noticed, the girl threw her arms around Andrew's legs.

"Sweetheart, what's wrong?" Andrew checked, taking her hands and crouching down.

Shelby opened her mouth to respond but only a sob came out.  She buried her face in the angel's shoulder.

Andrew and JenniAnn exchanged worried glances.

"Shelby, did you get bee stung or a scrape?" the woman checked, kneeling beside the two.

A silent shake of the girl's head was the only answer.

"Did one of the other kids say something to you?" JenniAnn tried.

That time there was a nod in response.

Andrew looked over at JenniAnn in disbelief.  The Tunnel children had the occasional disagreements like all kids.  But they had been raised in such a welcoming, compassionate, loving environment that teasing incidents were few and far between.  His heart going out to her, he hugged the girl and patted her back soothingly. 

JenniAnn stroked her student's hair.  "Would you like to tell us what they said, Shelby?"

She shrugged and remained glued to Andrew.

"How about you stay here with Psyche and me for a few minutes and help us with the food?" the angel of death suggested, hoping that some distraction might calm the little one down enough to enable her to open up.  "I need to flip those burgers and hot dogs up there so maybe you could help me watch, make sure I get them all."

Shelby at last raised her head and nodded.  "'Kay, I will."

Andrew beamed at her.  "Great."  He stood and lifted the child onto his hip, turning the burgers with his free hand as she watched like a hawk.

Around the twentieth flip, Shelby rested her head on Andrew's shoulder.  JenniAnn smiled as she opened the side dish containers.  Only the previous week, when she'd brought the kids over for some much-needed play time in the sun, Andrew had commented to her about how quickly Shelby was growing up.  He'd smiled proudly but there was a wistfulness in his eyes... as if he could already see the day when she'd brush past him with a quick hug and be more interested in his car keys than the coloring books he kept stocked for the kids.   It was good to see him have a tender moment with the child who still very obviously needed him.

After flipping the last burger, Andrew smiled again at Shelby.  "Thank you for helping.  But now... how about we talk about what got you so upset?  I know sometimes it's hard to talk about our feelings... even for angels.  But it's important and it helps."  He carefully sat the girl down on a bench and took the seat to her right, leaving room for JenniAnn to her left.

"I... I heard some of the older boys talking.  About soldiers and wars," Shelby confided quietly as fresh tears pooled in her eyes.

"What did they say about soldiers that made you sad?" Andrew questioned gently.

"Evan wondered if..."  The little one paused and shook her head as if trying to banish her own thoughts.  She peered into Andrew's face but said no more.

Andrew frowned.  He was glad that Shelby's distress wasn't about a carelessly cruel remark but troubled by her reticence.  The angel knew that between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, Vincent always did a big push of American History with special emphasis on the armed services.  He was a passionate, gifted teacher and it didn't surprise Andrew at all that the kids would be discussing his lessons.  Maybe Shelby had overheard something Vincent himself would never have taught to her age group.  But what?  And why was she so reluctant to tell?

"Shelby, are you worried about getting Evan in trouble?" JenniAnn tried.  "Because we won't be angry.  There's nothing wrong with wondering."

"I know b-but..."  Shelby looked to her teacher and then back at Andrew.  In a torrent, the words came out.   "Evan wondered if you'd ever... ever been in a war.  And... and..."  Tears began to cascade down her cheeks again.  "Asher said he knew you had cause he remembered one Christmas you came late because you... you...  at a war.  I don't want you to be in wars, Andrew!  People get hurt in wars!"  As her sobs increased, the little girl clamored onto the angel's lap.

As they had when she first appeared, the two adults exchanged concerned glances.  Andrew hadn't considered that Shelby's tears were over him.  He'd been prepared to boost her bruised feelings or dismiss a childish, irrational fear.  But this...  He knew he couldn't very well tell the girl it would never happen.  It had.  Many times over the course of his long life. 

After a prayer, the words he needed came to the angel.  Andrew tenderly pried the little girl away from him so he could look into her face.  "Shelby, sweetheart, sometimes things happen.  Like some people get to thinking that other people don't deserve to live happy lives.  And so... so they do mean things to them.  And then other people... they need to stand up for the people being harmed.  Those people risk everything to help others, to try to make the world a better and freer place.  They give so much, Shelby.  So much.  And God wants them to have angels with them.  Taking care of them, protecting them, talking to them when they're scared.  Because He loves them so much and it's so important to Him that they are never, ever alone.  And I feel honored when He asks me to be one of those angels.  I don't like war.  But I love all of you.  And I will be there whenever God asks me to be... whether in war or in peace.  Do you understand that?" Andrew asked, brushing some tear-soaked hair away from the child's face.

"Y-yes.  B-but... could you get hurt?" Shelby prodded.

Andrew glanced over at JenniAnn who was staring at the ground.  He squeezed her hand, wishing she didn't know as much as she did.  "Sometimes angels... well, our spirits can get hurt during wars," he admitted, speaking to the woman as much as to the child.  "But not... not as badly hurt as humans can be.  And that's why we need to be there.  For them.  And you know that Christmas Asher mentioned?  I did come back from a war.  A little late.  But I was there.  And I was so happy to see all of you!  And I know you were too little to remember, Shelby, but you were there.  And I picked you up and you gave me the biggest smile!"  Andrew's whole face lit up when the grown Shelby smiled at the thought.  "And any hurt I felt... it just went away when I saw that smile of yours and all the smiles from all our friends.  And it's always going to be that way.  And we just need to pray that it's that way for each and every person, human or angel, who leaves their home to do what they can to make the world a better, more peaceful place.  Okay?"

"'Kay," Shelby agreed.  She hugged Andrew then slid off his lap.

The angel and JenniAnn watched as she knelt on the grass. 

"Dear God," Shelby began, "please protect the soldiers and the angels you send to be with them.  And please let all the people who love them know that angels are there, too.  And that they love them.  Thank you.  Love, Shelby.  Amen."

"Amen," Andrew and JenniAnn echoed, blinking back tears but smiling.

"Andrew?" Shelby's big eyes once again stared up at his.

"Yeah?"  The angel prepared himself for whatever other worries the tiny girl might be wrestling with.

"Is dinner ready?"

"Dinner!" Andrew cried, leaping to his feet and throwing open the lid of the grill.  He smiled with relief when he found the burgers and brats weren't charred.  In fact, they were perfect.  He raised his eyes to the heavens, offering a prayer of thanks.  "Looks like Lady Beth won't need to give me repeat lessons," he joked as he removed the meat from the grill.  "It's ready!" he hollered. 

At Andrew's call, the blankets and picnic tables were abandoned and everyone was soon eagerly loading up their plates.

As Andrew and JenniAnn made their way to the table Adam and Rose were waving them towards, they passed a group of kids piled onto a blanket.  Shelby was speaking animatedly to her brother, Evan, Millie, and some others.

"And Andrew said it was an honor to be with the soldiers then.  And that even w
hen it's hard, we make him feel better.  And that we just gotta pray for the soldiers and their families," she told. 

JenniAnn smiled up at Andrew as they walked away.  "I think you handled that very well.  Shelby's clearly much more at ease."

"And how about yourself?" the angel checked.

"Every day countless people wake up wondering when... and if... their husbands, wives, children, parents are coming home.  And they think about what they must be seeing, experiencing, finding themselves having to do..."  JenniAnn shook her head.  "We've all had those same thoughts when we knew you were in war torn countries.  But we always knew you were coming home, Andrew.  They don't.  So we count our blessings and we pray that one day no one ever has to have those thoughts or experiences again.  And that, in the meantime, they know their loved ones are never, ever alone."

Andrew nodded.  "I've been praying and hoping for that day for a long time, Laja.  And one day... one day I have to believe that, with the Father's help, it's going to come."

No sooner had Andrew finished speaking than Tess struck up with a song she had chosen to stand in for grace.  It was a song that spoke of the hope in the heart of every person in that field, angels and humans both.

"Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,
brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
in perfect harmony."

The End

"Let There Be Peace on Earth" was written by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson.


JABB 332

(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)