AUNT JOY has come back — dear, sweet Aunt Joy has come back to us. "Us" means papa, mamma, Ned, Grace and Trixie — I'm Trixie.
Only one year ago she had gone abroad, papa said, "'Cause God had seen fit to take Uncle Clyde and Baby Guy off to heaven to live with him." So Aunt Joy, all robed in blackest black, with such a sad, white face, had gone off to find if anything in all this wide, wide world "could take her mind off and cure her," papa said.
But now Aunt Joy is back again, all well and dressed in soft, pretty colors instead of that nasty black; sweeter and more loving than ever.
She says she is all ours, and just running over with stories. She don't say where she's been, but Ned says he knows "God's had her somewhere, for she don't seem like folks, and he knows if she wanted to, she could just fly away any time."
I don't know just how that could be, but I do know God comes and does things like she wants him to.
Grace has bad dreams and is afraid of the dark. The other night she cried, and Aunt Joy came in and just took her right up in her arms without lighting the gas, and asked, "Why are you afraid of the dark?"
Grace said, "'Cause there's bug'oos in it." "Can you see them?"
"No; I just fink 'em."
"Do they hurt you?"
"No; but I'se 'fraid they will."
"Are you afraid now?"
"No; 'cause you're here."
"But suppose something 'scarey' should really come in now, what would you do?"
"Wouldn't do nuffin', but just keep right in your arms; nuffin' could scare or hurt me 'en." "Why not?"
'Cause I loves you so, and you loves me and would never, never let anyfin' hurt me when you's here."
"Grace, darling, where did you get that love that makes you so brave when my arms are about you?"
"Get it? Why, it just is, isn't it?"
"Then, wasn't it here just the same before I came in?"
'I didn't fink 'bout 'at afore, but course I loves you des 'e same in 'e other room, but some way it seems dif'nt when I know you's right here wiv me, tho' I can't see you."
"Would you love me any better if the light were here, so you could see me?"
"No, I like it 'is way."
"But suppose I lay you down and sit. beside you, without
touching you, and keep so still you cannot even hear me breathe; how would you love me then?"
"Try it, Aunt Joy; let's see how it feels."
So Aunt Joy sat there in the dark, all still, till Grace called out: "Oh, Aunt Joy! I know it all now; at's God's way. He keeps out of sight, but he's right 'ere all 'e time. I never fought of it afore. Papa and mamma always say God's always ever'where, but I couldn't 'stan' it afore. Now you's right 'ere, and I can't see you or feel you or hear you, but — but you're 'ere des 'e same, and I know it. And the bug'oos can't come, 'cause I know it. Why do I know God does at way?"
"My sweet child, you are quick to catch my lesson of the dark — now if you will practice it by going to sleep here in God's arms without me, we will talk it all over tomorrow, and then you will understand it better. We have waked up your sister with our midnight lesson. Now, shall I kiss you goodnight and leave you? Can you really trust God to stay and keep off the 'bugaboos'?"
Grace decided to do so, and Aunt Joy went back to her room. I felt so strangely about her leaving God there, and wondered what he'd think if Grace got scared again.
Pretty soon I heard Grace say, "Dear God, when I said my prayers I hope you'll 'scuse me for d'rectin' 'em to heaven, 'cause I didn't know 'en 'at you's sure 'nuff right 'ere, and I could des talk to you and love you same's Aunt Joy. I know, dear God, you never made bug'oos to scare little children; now I know you's 'ere, 'e dark's all full of pretty finks, and I fank you, God, for feeling so soft and warm," and then Grace was fast asleep.
Next morning after prayers, Grace climbed into papa's lap and whispered something that made papa look anxious and say, "Why, my dear baby, what makes you say such strange things?"
"Why, papa," said Grace in wonder, "didn't you tell me so?"
"Papa, don't you 'member you said lots of times 'God was ever'where always'?"
"Yes, dear, I said that."
" 'En what makes you fink it's funny 'cause he kept off the bug'oos last night?"
"Oh, darling! sometimes when God shows too much attention to our loved ones, we fear he is coaxing them away from us."
"Why, papa, I don't 'stan' you."
"Ask Aunt Joy, then; she can explain to you these things. He coaxed her darling boy, just your age, off to heaven with him."
"Why, Aunt Joy, what for? If He's 'ere all 'e time, what does he take 'em to heaven to have 'em for?"
"He don't, dear," said Aunt Joy.
"Where is heaven, anyway?" asked Grace.
"Heaven, sweet one," said papa, "is where God lives; heaven is God's beautiful home."
"But, papa, I don't 'stan'; didn't you tell me God was always wiv us? How can he be 'ere and 'are, too?"
"Dear child, God is everywhere—in heaven and on earth."
" 'En what makes folkses talk 'bout going up to God if God's right 'ere?"
"Well, my baby, you see, up in heaven God has his throne; the angels are there, and when people die and go up there, they are never sick or sad any more. So people like to think of going up there to get away from trouble, pain and death."
"But, papa, 'at don't seem nice o' God to be gooder to folkses up 'are than down 'ere."
"Oh, Grace, baby! Little folks can't understand the wise things of God."
"Now, brother," put in Aunt Joy, "you don't seem to agree with Jesus Christ on that subject. He said, 'I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.' (Matt. 11:25). If God is everywhere present, as you teach these children, why may not Grace expect him to do as much for her here as anywhere? If he fills all place and all time, how is it possible for him to be any more present at one place or one time than at another?"
"Why, Sister Joy," said papa, "you take an unusual view of His omnipresence. Have we not daily proof that, although God is ever present, he does not choose to make us satisfied with this life, but afflicts us that we may look to the life beyond and prepare for heaven?"
"Brother," said Aunt Joy, "will you please to recall the location of heaven as given by Jesus? It may give these children a better understanding of its locality."
Papa looked so funny that Aunt Joy went on talking.
"Jesus said, 'The kingdom of God [or heaven] is within
you,' (Luke 17:21) and he further stated, 'Except ye become as a little child, ye cannot enter in' (Matt. 18:3). Now, Grace, there is where Jesus Christ told us we could find heaven. As for the 'great white throne,' (Rev. 20:11) a king never takes his throne out of his kingdom; so you will find that there, too. If you will look closely you will find that the 'white throne' is your own pure heart, for what other throne would love ask for, and Jesus says, 'God is love.' Yes, dear, the angels are there, too, and are nothing more nor less than sweet, kind thoughts, ever ready to fly about and carry messages for their king."
Papa got up and went off to his office without even kissing us.
Grace sat looking at Aunt Joy like the sun was shining on her face, but I couldn't see how it got through the curtains.
At last Grace said, "Now, I'm happy, Aunt Joy. When papa said God's so good to folkses in heaven and so bad to us, I felt he's awful mean to stay 'ere all 'e time and hunt 'e bad fings we do, and make us sick and 'fraid he's going to kill us all 'e time. I des couldn't help but fink how much gooder I'd be to folkses if I's him. Why, I wouldn't do nuffin' all my long, long life but make 'em happy, if I'se him."
"Bless your sweet heart, darling," said Aunt Joy, "that loving thought is one of His angels coming out from the throne now. That's just what God is trying to do all the time — make people happy, but they don't understand him and seek the heaven within. So, dear one, go into your own sweet little heaven and dwell there among the angels
and keep them busy with messages of life and joy; then the door of your heart will be closed to naughty, unkind thoughts — black angels, they are — and you will dwell with the angels of Love and Light always, and work with them; for God is in you, and where God is, heaven is." Aunt Joy and Grace went up to mamma's room. Poor mamma is always sick.
When we were left alone, Ned and I just looked at each other, for we didn't know what to say. At last Ned broke out, "I say, Trixie, what in the world would you give if what Aunt Joy says is true?"
"I felt kind o' strange over that talk," I said, "but if we can get to heaven without dying, I'm in for it." Ned threw up his cap and whistled and said, "That would be jolly."
Then he got real sober and thought awhile and said: "I say, Trixie, that would be all right for you, but you see I couldn't do it, for I've got to die sometime to get rid of this game leg." Ned is lame.
"Now that is something against this inside heaven, isn't it? I wonder why God mixes things up so for us?" We thought a long time before Ned said: "Well, we can understand why He is everywhere all the time — because, you see, he has to be on hand to keep us a-breathing, and the big worlds a-going, but whether he wants to do anything extra, who knows? Let's ask Aunt Joy."