She stopped by unannounced, unexpectedly showing up on my back porch. Who does that when you live in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten path? Hikers frequenting the nearby mountain, perhaps, but no one else. Yet here she was, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, one who lived far enough away to make the trip unlikely.
My heart leaped for joy to see my friend, but my brain groused that I had five hours of work to finish in the short time before our dinner on the porch. My husband’s unexpected disability meant the outdoor tasks wouldn’t happen. Dead leaves and blossoms littered the deck alongside the deserted robin’s nest and sticky spider webs. Flowers drooped in the muggy, blistering heat. The daisy waited patiently for a new pot, but the hollyhocks… I sighed, seeing the wilted, dying blooms in plastic tubs. Four weeks was three weeks too long for those plants. Their new garden bed wasn’t going to happen either.
“I love digging in the ground,” my friend offered reassuringly. Wait, what? You’d plant the hollyhocks for me? My grousing stopped as the Spirit nudged me to remember. Was it this morning I shook my head and prayed cynically, “Lord, what I really want is someone to walk in off the street and say, ‘Hi, I’m here to plant those hollyhocks.’” What I really thought was “Right, that’s not going to happen.”
But here was my friend, who happened to love gardening, offering to plant the languishing flowers. I shook my head again, this time apologizing to the Lord. “Oh Lord, here I am complaining about needing more time, and you heard a prayer I didn’t even think you could answer. I’m so sorry!” How many times did I miss His gracelettes when I wasn’t looking, wasn’t remembering, wasn’t expecting?
When our health challenges catapulted us into the medical morass, our friends moved into high gear, astounding us with huge answers to prayer and offers of help. Our days buzzed with furniture moving, garden-tending, driving, care-giving and gift-card-giving friends. But the little things, the forgotten parts, tested my faith even more. When He’d done so much already, would God care about the tiny parts, the hollyhocks, the despondent moments, the messy-desk despair? “Ungrateful, greedy wretch!” the enemy whispered. “How can you ask for more? Live with it!”
“Care? He did, and He does,” the Holy Spirit responded, edging out my glumness. “Look around!” Suddenly free of fretting, I mentally scanned the last few days, remembering. I could see the desk again, thanks to one encouraging organizer. Confidence returned when another friend smiled and plowed through a heavy meeting agenda with joy. Smiles supplanted tears when a colleague texted me just when I needed her listening ear and her humor. Earthly angels they were, easing the weight off my shoulders and lifting my eyes to hope.
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25). “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “Do not be anxious about anything, but In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6-7). I’d memorized the verses but I didn’t feel them. I’d prayed, but I hadn’t expected answers.
Hollyhock gracelets. God’s voice and His smile in the midst of a mountain of challenges.
I grinned at my friend, and handed her the trowel. “Thank you,” I said to her, and just as much to God. He winked, I blushed, and the hollyhocks settled moistly into the ground.