“Get your purse and let’s go. We don’t want to be late!” Ruby called over her shoulder to Amber. She pulled the strap of her own brown leather purse higher on her shoulder as she strode toward Sterling’s car. Sterling was just climbing into the driver’s seat. He looked over at Ruby who was buckling herself in the seat beside him.
“Where’s Amber?” he asked. Ruby glanced toward the house.
“She should be coming. I guess she was trying to get in a few last minutes of guitar practice after she got ready.”
“Well, she’d better come pretty quick so we can go,” Jasper stated from the backseat.
A minute later Amber climbed into the backseat beside him. Glad to be off, Sterling headed the car toward the community center in the neighboring town.
Ruby smoothed down her pink floral apron and turned to see what Amber was wearing. Sizing up Amber’s white skirt and mint green shirt she anxiously asked, “Did you bring your apron?”
Amber pointed at her bulky purse. “I didn’t want to put it on until I have to.”
“Glad I don’t have to wear one to set up tables and chairs,” Sterling teased.
“I could have loaned you my pink gingham one,” Amber offered.
“Nah,” Jasper disagreed. “He’d want Mom’s with the teacups,”
They talked most of the short drive before arriving at the community center where they were going to set up for their church’s fundraiser dinner. Over at the church, a missionary from Brazil would be speaking. The church had decided to host a dinner to raise money for the mission school he was trying to start.
They were also hoping to use the dinner as a witnessing opportunity in their community by distributing gospel books and having the missionary do a short talk. The four oldest Randall children had agreed to set up for the event: the boys setting up tables and chairs, the girls preparing dishes and receiving the food that others brought.
Sterling, the responsible keeper of the key, got out first and unlocked the door. They all went into the empty, rather large room. It was bare and quiet.
“Where are the tables we’re supposed to set up?” Jasper looked around at the empty room and the plaques and pictures on the walls.
“They’re in a closet down there,” Sterling answered. The two boys disappeared down a hall.
“We need to see where everything is in the kitchen,” Ruby told Amber. They looked over the stacks of disposable dishes and utensils that their pastor had dropped off earlier in the day.
“Looks like they’re expecting a crowd,” commented Amber.
“Yeah, so we’d better get busy. We can open these packages so they’ll be ready.” She slid the plastic wrapper off of a stack of foam cups. “Jasper,” she called as he was going by with four folding chairs. “Can y’all set up the serving table first so we can start putting things out?”
“We’ll have to move a few more chairs first so we can get to the tables, but we’ll do that one first,” he answered.
“Good.” Ruby looked at her watch. “I want to have everything as ready as possible when people start arriving.”
“Why couldn’t we have gone to the service and then set up?” Amber asked in a sulky voice.
“Can you imagine how pressed for time we would have been? Think of the chaos!” Ruby was deftly wringing out a dishrag for wiping off the dusty tables. “Besides it’s fun to help. And we’ll get to hear the missionary on Sunday.”
She looked at Amber’s frowning face. “You didn’t have to come you know.”
“I know.” Amber sighed. “I thought it was the right thing to do.” She wandered off to read the plaques on the wall while Ruby flew back and forth straightening dishes and hot pads, getting everything just right. She finally put Amber to work setting out cups to be filled with ice later. Slowly, Amber set out one cup at a time.
“There!” Ruby’s sigh was tired contentment. “I think we’re all ready, and people will start arriving any minute.” The boys were sitting at a table, having finished setting up all the tables and chairs a little while earlier.
It was a busy evening and a successful dinner. That is if you call every seat in the place full and most of the dishes scraped clean successful. People also seemed to listen well to the devotional and gospel message the missionary shared.
Ruby was in her element. She smiled graciously at each guest as she scooped yet another helping of mashed potatoes onto a crowded plate. Several other ladies from the church were also helping to serve.
Amber had been given the job of filling cups with ice. She kept glancing longingly at the dessert table, watching people take plates of gooey chocolate cake and fruit pie piled high with whipped cream. She avoided eye contact with the people whenever she could and sighed to herself often.
Events like that feel like they last forever – to the workers that is – but they don’t. This one didn’t either. After the last hungry attendee had been filled, it was time to clean up. Mrs. Randall told Ruby and Amber that they could stop and eat while others who hadn’t been there for as long worked on cleaning. Ruby massaged a tired shoulder and smiled.
“I’d like to finish what I started,” she said frankly.
Amber was only too glad to sit and eat, which was what she had been waiting for the whole evening. Between bites of the last helping of creamed corn, she could see Ruby in the kitchen scrubbing pots and pans. “That’s her least favorite chore,” she mused.
When the last gleaming pan had been returned to its owner, Ruby took the plate of food her mom had put back for her and joined Amber.
“I thought I was tired when we finished setting up,” she laughed.
Amber seemed strangely silent. Then she said what was on her mind. “You seem so happy working, Ruby. How do you do it?”
It was Ruby’s turn to grow silent. “Well, she said hesitantly. “You know the other day when I didn’t do all my Bible study, and we talked about serving and learning from Jesus? Like we said then, serving comes naturally to me, and I have to work hard to be still and rest and spend time with Jesus.”
“But how can you be happy doing jobs you don’t like? Like washing pots?” Amber grinned at her sister.
“That’s where my verse of the month comes in,” Ruby said promptly. She quoted it.
“Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.”
“I think God is telling us to serve Him out of love because we are glad to. I’ve been asking Him to help me do that.” Ruby pushed aside her plate and took a spoonful of vanilla pudding from her bowl.
“That’s a good idea,” Amber said. “But does serving the Lord with gladness mean working hard all the time?”
“Of course not,” Ruby chuckled. “Quite often it should mean resting and spending time with the Lord. Really anything that we have to do can be done as service for Jesus if our heart’s right. And,” her eyes twinkled, “Sometimes serving with gladness means enjoying eating good food.”
“Like vanilla pudding?” Amber caught on with glee.
“And it could be talking with your favorite sister,” Ruby added. Both girls laughed together.
*Post inspired by a sermon by Peter Magnuson.
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