J. Grant Swank, Jr.

We just left Aunt Gert’s home. It’s been a bright spot in a rather lackluster winter month.

While relaxing over breakfast this morning, I looked again at the attractive banner hanging from a door that leads into her basement. The banner reads simply: “BLESS OUR HOME.” It’s been hanging there for years upon years. In fact, sunlight shining in on it day in and day out has blanched it somewhat; but the message is still as clear and warm as when it was first hung.

I spread butter with strawberry jam on the Irish soda bread Aunt Gert had prepared for our visit. She’s the best when it comes to Irish soda bread. Maybe it’s because she’s from Ireland and has visited family over there on several occasions. Whatever — it’s delicious beyond words.

You see, Aunt Gert is known for her baking excellence. But not only her culinary skills, but also the Christian love that goes along with them. She’s now 86 years old. Yet still she considers it her delight in baking delicacies “for the old people.” So it is she gets behind her steering wheel to meander about her village with pies, cakes and cookies. These gifts are presented especially to those who are sick or housebound. After all, those people need a friend.

I have known Aunt Gert since I first met my wife — 45+ years ago. Down through all those years, Aunt Gert has used her kitchen oven for gospel good. Never to be a selfish person, she’s breathed out God’s gift of giving. In that she’s discovered numerous fast and loyal friends. Some of them have walked already through God’s eternal door; others are in nursing homes; and still others are her equals — keeping house and going about town.

This morning I sat back in my chair to listen to Aunt Gert and my wife discuss their latest recipe finds. Aunt Gert has stashed away so many recipes that she could print her own book. She often laughs about her collections, concluding that she has clipped far more recipes than she can ever bake. “Nevertheless, I can’t resist. When I see in a magazine one of those tasty recipes, I have to cut it out and put it in my boxes.” So how those recipe boxes have grown over time!

Aunt Gert has lived for Jesus since she was a little girl. Her parents were Christians who introduced her early to the Lord. Therefore, her life has centered on the church. She’s been the church organist since young adult years, was treasurer for the congregation for 14 years, taught Sunday school classes, involved herself in missions work, cooked for church suppers, and been faithful to worship week after week.

Where Aunt Gert has excelled beautifully is in her role as the Lord’s hostess. In that, she’s entertained in her home missionaries on furlough, visiting evangelists, gospel singers, and Christians from out of state who needed a meal and overnight. She’s welcomed family driving through on their ways thither and yon, new persons to the church, single young adults without family nearby, senior citizens who’d lost spouses, and sometimes young people in need of a long-term boarding home.

All of these fortunate individuals have sat at her table. They’ve drunk from her teapot — hot and brimming. They’ve noted her fancy table clothes with matching napkins. They’ve been treated to a refreshing and relaxing meal — never in a hurry, never in a rush. For all of that, they’ve thanked her over and over for sharing those coveted baking prizes.

Before leaving her home, one’s always invited to write in her guest book. I leafed through the pages recently to note names I hadn’t recalled for quite some time. There were also addresses from across the continent. And of course those friendly notes of appreciation filled up the pages.

I can attest to the fact that Aunt Gert has lived out that banner hanging in her kitchen. Her home has been particularly blessed by the Father. He’s smiled upon her open heart, her willing hands to bake, and her welcoming smile to so very many knocking at her door.

“Bless Our Home.” Yes, thank you, God, for answering her prayer. We in the Lakes Region especially have benefited by your graces bestowed upon your faithful servant — giving of herself from her gospel oven.


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