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 Lessons In Patience

   My daughter Starr has a very different personality than I do. For some reason, this child of mine has always done everything in extreme slow motion. It's just her personality. While I taught my children to cook, everyone else learned, and Starr just stood there, looking obstinate. She was never willing to cooperate, much less try to learn. She just said "I can't." She has Down's Syndrome, but her two sisters who also have it, are not methodical and slow like she is. Well, her childhood passed, and she ate cookies without having to bother learning to bake them. Last fall, when she was twenty-six years old, her younger sister Katie, my last child to be able to bake cookies, went out into the world, and became independent.

   Today, Starr came to me, and said she had seen that I had cookies in the laundry room. Cookies? Can you show me? She showed me two cookie tins that I keep bar soap in. Her face fell when I told her they only had soap in them. That gave me a clue that she was thinking about cookies. She's not one for much communication. I appreciated her not having peeked in! So I asked her if she would like to bake cookies herself. "I can't." There was her answer again, as always. "I'll help you" I offered. Her face lit up, and she went and got her own jar of peanut butter from her shelves. "Look, here's a recipe." She told me. And she was right. I saw that she had become willing to try, now that there was no one to bake them for her any more.

   So on this day of great summer heat, a chore was begun that would take anyone else about ten minutes. Painstakingly measuring ingredients, one by one, for peanut butter cookies. I explained how to match the fractions to the measuring cups, as I have many times before. This time she was paying attention. She can read quite well, but this was the first time I believe she really paid attention to the directions in a recipe. Before, she simply didn't want to bother, and chose to let a sibling make the cookies. Her siblings always shared.

   She smoothed each measuring cup across the top with her finger, so it would be just right. She would add a teaspoon of one sticky ingredient here, or take out a teaspoon there. At last she was satisfied, and each ingredient was painstakingly added to the bowl. It took her time to scrape out the little cups, then scrape off the scraper. She is a perfectionist, quite unlike her mother! Then I would point her to the recipe again, asking her what was next.

   Well over an hour later, I saw the end approaching, and turned on the oven. I was hot, and definitely not in the mood to be in a scorching kitchen, guiding anyone step by step through a recipe. But her quiet, intense concentration made me think. She was learning something that would enrich her life with more fun. She was achieving something herself, so her self esteem could improve. She was making something that her taste buds could hardly wait to savor.

   I thought about the enormous patience God has shown with me in my life. I have been a very slow learner in many things. Patience, for one. How many years I have been taking lessons in patience from my Heavenly Father - and still, I chafe at the bit! Is it so difficult for me to slow down, pay attention, and kindly guide my child, to learn something important to her? How can I chafe inside like this? I asked myself. What better thing in life do I have to do this afternoon? This cooking lesson for Starr, was also a patience lesson for me. Was God irritated, for still needing to give me a patience lesson, after 35 years of motherhood? No, He was not, because His mercy and kindness is everlasting.

    * Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus. Rom 15:5

   "My, they smell wonderful, don't they!" I exclaimed, as she washed her cooking utensils while the cookies baked. "Yes!" She replied, smiling.

   When the cookies were cool at last, she asked me what she should do now. I said, "well, honey, they're all yours!" Her cheeks flushed with joy. Carefully, she piled them on a plate, and of all things, she surprised me! Now, this daughter of mine is not a generous person by nature. She's been an adult for a long time, and she still does not like to share. So I was very interested to see what she would do. I gave her the choice.

   Starr went around to every member of her family still living at home, who could eat cookies, and offered each person two! I told her she was very kind, and what a generous thing to do! Her happy reply - "that's what Katie does." All these years, she's been watching how her siblings, and at last, her sister Katie baked cookies, and then gave everyone two. And all of a sudden, after what I thought of as a long ordeal, Starr was showing that she could learn to be kind in return! I thought I was just helping her to bake cookies. But God was helping her learn something far more important than that! He was helping her develop the gifts of generosity and kindness!

   How I praise my Saviour for the patience He has shown me, in my life. For the mercy He has shown me, when I failed. For the love He has shown me, in my disappointment with myself; and the consolation He has shown me, in teaching me yet again. I think patience is my very hardest lesson. But I passed the one He gave me today! And I'm so proud of my child, who is also still learning. I want to always continue learning from my Heavenly Father, as long as I live.

2005 Rosemary Gwaltney