Be on the lookout for angels in unusual disguises

Lorraine Murray has written “Grace Notes: Embracing the Joy of Christ in a Broken World” and six other books. She lives in Decatur with her husband, a Tolkien artist. Readers may contact her at lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

The instructions on the box claimed it would take just an hour and 45 minutes to prepare the lasagna, and I decided to give it a go. Six hours later, I emerged somewhat bleary-eyed and exhausted, but definitely triumphant.

I figured that somewhere, perhaps in a different universe, there was a cook who could have done the work in less time, but that certainly wasn’t me.

Usually my husband and I share the tasks associated with entertaining, but he was on an overseas business trip, and I had decided to hold a dinner party on my own. As I bustled around, baking cookies, getting dishes out and sprucing up the bathroom, I also stepped outside to check on our resident squirrel.

We had rescued the frightened fellow a month earlier after he had fallen from his nest during a storm. He was now living in a large cage on the front porch, where he had taken to begging for peanuts and other treats whenever I walked by.

He was feisty and full-grown and definitely independent enough to release into the yard — but I had decided to wait for my husband’s return from England so we could sing a few lines of “Born Free” as the furry fellow had his first taste of freedom.

As I chopped veggies for the salad and chilled the wine, I thought about all the people who have sat talking and laughing in our home over the years.

We have made paella, gumbo, manicotti, blackened pork chops and numerous roast beefs. We have served homemade wine, either muscadine or fig, which my husband prepares from fruit grown in our yard. And we have played host to herds of hungry children who hurry downstairs with full plates to watch movies on the big-screen TV.

I remembered the poignant phrase in the Bible about how we may encounter angels when we entertain strangers. I think that saying also applies to friends, many of whom have acted as impromptu angels over the years, rescuing us when times were tough.

When my husband’s sister died unexpectedly, friends left a delicious mercy meal for us at the front door. Another dear pal drove me 70 miles to the funeral service, while others prayed for us.

Later, when my mother-in-law was staying with us, we needed help getting her into the car for an early-morning surgery, and a kind friend showed up on our doorstep at the rather ungodly hour of 5 a.m. to lend a hand.

The lasagna meal was a success, judging from the raucous laughter and talking that filled the living room that night. At one point, I went outside to check on Mr. Squirrel and discovered the wily little guy had worked his way out of the cage and orchestrated his own release. Since then, he has returned to plead for peanuts — and more recently to raid the blueberry bushes.

I’ve learned to be on the lookout for angels who don’t always show up with halos and sparkling wings. They may parade into our houses in shorts and sandals, carrying bottles of wine for a party. They may give us a shy hug at church and thank us for prayers.

And who knows, I can’t say for sure, but maybe they also come disguised sometimes as fuzzy little animals in need of a home for just a short while.