By Linda Porter Carlyle
Hannah Maria Estevez watched the big, brown UPS van pull into the driveway. “Mama! The package man is here!” she called.
“I wonder what he’s bringing,” Mama said as she hurried to open the front door. “I’m not expecting anything.”
The UPS man smiled and said, “Good afternoon!” to Mama. He handed her a flat box. He showed her where to sign for the package. Then he hurried back to his truck.
“What is it? What is it?” Hannah asked eagerly.
“It’s for you,” Mama said, reading the label. “It’s from Aunt Rose.”
“Oh, good!” Hannah exclaimed. “Aunt Rose sends the best presents! But it isn’t my birthday or anything. Why did she send me a package?”
Mama laughed. She handed the box to Hannah. “Open it,” she said. “Maybe we’ll find out.”
Hannah sat down on the couch. But she couldn’t get through all the tape on the box with her fingernails. “I need scissors,” she said, jumping up.
She was back in a minute, scissors in hand. She carefully cut through the wide, clear tape. “Oh, look!” she said as she lifted the lid. “It’s clay! And a book that tells you how to make stuff with it!”
“Is there a note inside the box?” Mama asked.
Hannah picked up a small envelope. She opened it. “For Hannah—just because I love you!” she read aloud. A happy smile spread across her face. “Can I make something with the clay right now?” she asked.
“Sure,” Mama said. “Bring it to the kitchen and you can keep me company while I make supper.”
Hannah settled herself at the kitchen table. “These are really pretty colors,” she said. There was bright blue clay, and light blue clay, dark red clay, forest green clay, and sunshine yellow. There was even black clay and white clay.
Hannah looked at the colorful cover of the instruction book. A brown clay bear wearing a scuba mask swam across the bottom. A surprised-looking blue frog with black spots and yellow feet stared back at her. And a jazzy butterfly perched in the top left corner. Hannah laughed. She opened the book to see what was inside.
“It’s clay you bake in the oven,” she said. “Then what you made gets hard, and you can keep it forever. I always wanted that kind of clay! What shall I make first? Oh, here’s a page that tells how to make different colors! It shows how to make different shades of pink and different shades of brown. This is really fun! I’m going to try making pink.”
“What a nice present that is!” Mama said, looking at the book over Hannah’s shoulder.
“You can decorate hair barrettes!” Hannah exclaimed, turning the page. “I can make some barrettes for me, and I can make some for Mac too.” She turned another page. “And I want to make this cute pig. And look! A sheep! It tells how to make sheep! That’s what I’m going to make first!”
Hannah opened the package of white clay. She cut off a piece and tried to roll it in her hand. “It’s really hard,” she said.
“Your hands will warm it up, and it will get soft,” Mama said.
Hannah rolled the ball of white clay around and around. “I can glue cotton on the sheep after I bake it,” Hannah said, reading the directions. “It could be a Christmas tree ornament! I could make Christmas tree ornaments!” she exclaimed.
“What a good idea,” Mama said.
“I could make sheep ornaments for my friends, and for Pastor Chuck, and for Aunt Rose! The sheep will remind them of the shepherds when Jesus was born,” Hannah said. She opened the bar of black clay to make sheep legs and faces. Then she looked at Mama and giggled. “This is just like that story we learned at Sabbath School about clay. Pastor Chuck said we are all like clay, and God is shaping us to be beautiful and useful for Him like the potter in the story made things with clay.”
“I remember that story,” Mama said. “I thought about it a lot when I took a pottery class years ago before you were even born. I tried to make bowls and cups on a potter’s wheel. It’s really, really hard to do! I’m afraid I didn’t make anything very beautiful.”
“How does God shape people?” Hannah asked. “He doesn’t reach down from heaven and touch them with His hands.”
“One way He shapes us is by the other people He puts in our lives,” Mama answered. “For example, if God sees that we need to be more patient, He might put irritating people around us so we have lots of chances to practice patience.”
Hannah pinched off a little bit of black clay to make sheep ears. “I like this present a lot!” she said. “Maybe I’ll make Aunt Rose a whole flock of Christmas ornament sheep. Do you think she would like that?”
Mama patted Hannah’s shoulder. “I think she would like that very much.”