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Lilies of the Field

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LILIES OF THE VALLEY or wild garlic?

Mother's Day, 1973. Loneliness engulfed me. Sure. I was a mother; but three year old Joy knew very little of Mother's special day. And my own mother was far away in California.

We had recently moved to Northeast Brazil, and just out of language school, I could barely understand the country version of Portuguese. So, even though I was dorm mother to six Bible School students - communication was difficult and superficial.  Often Joy translated for me!

And there were other things, hard things. The rains were late that year. Everything was hot and drab! For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed beauty...brightly colored flowers, sunsets painted across the sky, the happy descant of birds...but there was nothing beautiful about the Sertão! Or so I thought.

Stretching and yawning, I crawled out of bed...enjoying a bit of well deserved self-pity. "Humph! Mother's Day."

In the kitchen, I began breakfast. "No one would serve me breakfast in bed..." my mind ran on, "or even take me out to dinner after church. And if he did, where would we go? To the local bus station for beans and rice?" Tears were fast collecting.

Clap! Clap! Who could that be at the door? At this hour?" Drying my hands on my robe, I went to see...pasting a smile on my face.

"Happy Mother's Day!" Esmeralda held out a lovely bouquet of lilies...lilies of the field. Esmeralda, whose mother we had buried a month before, was lonely too. She smiled shyly.

Instantly, my whole outlook changed. "They're beautiful. Where did you get them?"

"Come with me." We walked to the front of the dorm and there - all over the fields - those drab acres of stubby weeds - God had splashed color: white, pink, deep rose. Thousands of lilies were "smiling" in the quiet morning cool. God had given me beauty here in Northeast Brazil!

Every Spring when it rains and the "surprise" lilies appear, I am reminded of that Mothers' Day so long ago, and of a sweet young girl who reached out to me in a language I could understand.

It all came back to me this Spring, while riding with a friend. For two nights it had rained. The lilies had sprouted and were in bloom. "Look? Aren't they beautiful?" I remembered Esmeralda's gift. Perhaps I would tell my friend?

"Hm? Oh. You mean that wild garlic? It is kind of pretty, isn't it?"

It's all a matter of perspective. "All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15. On that May morning, more than twenty years ago, Esmeralda did not bring me "wild garlic!"

She painted my Day with a bouquet of Mothers's Day Lilies!

CHECKER BOARD CAKE (Marli's Pão de Ló)

2 Tbs. margarine               4 cups flour

4 cups sugar                     1 Tbs. baking powder

6 eggs, separated              1 1/2 cups hot milk

Cream margarine, sugar and egg yolks. Add dry ingredients, alternating with hot milk. Fold in the egg whites. Divide the batter. Add 1/2 cup powdered chocolate to one part. Make two white, one chocolate. Bake.


1 qt. milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 Tbs. cornstarch, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 can of canned cream (may substitute 1-1/3 cups dairy sour cream) 1 egg yolk, 1/2 - 3/4 cup coconut milk.

Cook milk, vanilla and cornstarch until thick. Gradually add to the egg yolk, mixing well. Add remaining ingredients. Cool.

Let the cake cool. Cut in strips 1 1/2 inch wide. Then cut in squares. You can put it together in a Tupperware cake holder (rectangular) or a box lined with aluminum foil. Put together as a checker board, painting sides of each square with the above filling...alternating the white and chocolate squares.

If you make two layers, alternate the squares of the second layer against the first. Always paint sides and top with above filling (glue) Spread filling over top, before adding second layer; and over top of second layer. Cover and store in refrigerator for two days before frosting.


Bring to a boil 2 cups sugar, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar, a dash of salt and 2/3 cup water. Cook until sugar dissolves. Slowly add to 2 unbeaten egg whites, beating constantly with rotary or electric beater until frosting is of spreading consistency. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla. Frost cake, and sprinkle with grated coconut.


It was a very full week-end. And it came after an even busier week. Definitely no time to be bored:)

Saturday was the Mothers' Tea - in our yard. The ladies at Hope Baptist (Esperança) put together a lovely program, including a one act play on Jochabed, mother of Moses.

The theme, "The Garden of My Heart" was carried thru the whole program. There were arrangements of tropical flowers everywhere. Several unsaved relatives and friends came.

And, then came Sunday. Mothers' Day! Should we have refreshments after the Sunday evening service? Sure. "I'll bake a cake," I offered.  Several volunteered to bring juice.

Sunday afternoon, I cleaned my office...finishing up several projects and packed to go to Fortaleza on the night bus. Joy would be arriving from the States very early Tuesday morning!

Church Service. 6 p.m. At 5:45, just as we were loading the car, the phone rang, "Please bring some grated coconut?"

"The cake!" I had completely forgotten to bake a cake!

The program, put on by the children under the direction of our Brazilian Missionary, Marli Gavioli, was very nice. At the end, after Darrel's short message, the kids did a skit. "Baking a Cake for Mother." Their cake looked so good. If only...

"It almost looks real, " Shirley whispered in my ear. A shame it's only styrofoam!" and she chuckled. My heart sank. Then, the "mother" in the skit offered the cake to all the mothers present. Surely she wouldn't offer a styrofoam cake. I held my breath. I hardly dared to hope.

One of the mothers came forward...napkins in one hand and a knife in the other. The Lord knew that I had had neither time nor energy to bake a cake that day, and He had allowed me to forget!

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