By Linda Porter Carlyle

 Hannah Maria Estevez saw the UPS truck turn into the driveway and stop. “Mama! The package man is here!” she called excitedly. Hannah hurried to open the front door. She had a pretty good idea the package was for her.

“I have a package for Miss Hannah Estevez,” the delivery woman said with a smile.

“That’s me!” Hannah exclaimed. “It’s my birthday!” She took the big box and looked at the label. “It’s from Aunt Julie! I wonder what it is.”

Mama gave the scissors to Hannah. “Be careful cutting the tape,” she cautioned. “I could tell that box was from Aunt Julie just by looking at all the tape on it,” she added with a laugh. “Aunt Julie believes in sealing her packages well!”

Hannah knelt down on the floor beside the box. When she finally got it open, she found a lumpy present inside wrapped in pink flowered paper with, “Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!” written over and over on it. Hannah ripped the paper open and then sat back and looked unhappily at her gift. “Oh, Mama! It’s a big stuffed lion! I don’t like lions!”

“Aunt Julie probably doesn’t realize that you don’t like lions,” Mama said.

“I collect sheep!” Hannah wailed. “Lions eat sheep!”

Mama laughed. “Well, that’s true.” She picked up the lion and sat down on the couch with it on her lap. “This is a really beautiful stuffed lion though,” she said. She fingered the lion’s mane. “It’s very realistic looking.”

Mama thought for a minute. “Maybe you would like them better if you knew more about lions,” she said. “They’re called the ‘king of beasts,’ you know, because they are so strong and royal-looking.”

“And scary,” Hannah put in. “I think they look scary.”

“Did you know that lions are the only cats with manes?” Mama asked. “The mane makes the male lions look even bigger and stronger than they are, and it helps to protect them in fights.”

“Well, that doesn’t make me like them any better!” Hannah said.

“OK. Let me try again,” Mama said. “Did you know that lions are the friendliest of all the different kinds of cats? They live very peacefully together in groups called prides. And they sleep or rest about 20 hours a day. And mama lions are good mothers,” she went on. “A nursing mother lion will feed any hungry cub even if it’s not her own baby.”

Hannah wrinkled her nose. She wadded up the bright birthday wrapping paper to throw it away. Then she noticed a white envelope still in the bottom of the brown box. She picked it up and opened it.

“Happy Birthday to my favorite niece,” the note from Aunt Julie began. “I am sending you this stuffed lion to go with your sheep collection. It’s to keep you thinking about heaven when the lions and the lambs will lie down together, and lions will eat grass like sheep. You can read all about it in Isaiah 11. Lots of love, Aunt Julie.”

Hannah began to laugh. “Aunt Julie is so funny!” she exclaimed.

Mama smiled. She handed Hannah her new stuffed lion. “Isn’t your Sabbath School lesson about lions this week?” she asked. “Why don’t you get out the encyclopedia and learn something more about them that you can share with Pastor Chuck and your friends? You’ll still be studying about Daniel next week too. I seem to remember that there was an Egyptian Pharaoh who took a pet lion into battle with him. I’m positive that scared his enemies!”

Hannah stood up. “It would scare me!” she said. She looked at the stuffed lion. “I guess I’ll go put him on my bed and introduce him to my sheep,” she said.

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