“Do you have a minute?” she asked. “Come see my irises.”
“Uhh… sure. But… I haven’t brushed my teeth yet. I wanted to get here before the mail left, and—”
“That’s okay,” she laughed, pointing to her mass of wavy, somewhat blond, mostly graying hair. “This is how I woke up. I leaned over and asked Tom if he could find the needle.” She laughed again.
I turned around to thank our postmistress; then followed my neighbor out the door and over to her yard.
In our tiny ghost town the post office is sort of the hub, the daily gathering place for anyone wanting to catch up on the latest happenings in our neck of the woods—literally.
I had really hoped to slip in and out without meeting anyone. After all, I wore sweats and no make-up; my hair was clipped in a lopsided, upended ponytail, and my breath, I’m sure, was atrocious.
But Laura invited me to see her garden. It was spring, and the countryside was in full bloom. How could I refuse?
We didn’t have far to walk as her petite, five-foot frame led the way. Still chatting, she opened the gate to allow me entrance. A private sanctuary of lush color stirred my senses.
“Oh! I love what you’ve done here,” I said, taking it all in.
She smiled. “This entire yard was full of crabgrass,” she said. “None of the flowers or plants were here when we bought the house.”
“Wow. It’s beautiful,” I murmured softly.
Ducking a little to walk under the vine-covered trellis, I listened to her describe the efforts she and her husband made in transforming their small piece of property. “While we still had the energy,” she added.
The April breeze gently stroked her wind chimes, adding a touch of music to our garden tour.
“We put twinkle lights in the trees, and at night there’s such a wonderful glow,” she continued as we walked around.
Snapdragons, strawberry plants, ivy, lettuce, Swiss chard, irises and more plants I didn’t recognize grew in pots, placed strategically around the garden. The stone walkway, crackle glass gazing balls and other accents added character to the space.
I admired everything, and told her so. “You do have some beautiful irises.”
Then I suggested she come see ours. “It’s spring break. My husband will be home most of the week, working in the yard. So, this would be a good time to come over,” I said.
She knew Ron raises orchids and bonsai trees, but she didn’t know about our irises.
“He’s been doing some cross-breeding, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind sharing with you.”
“Oh! That would be fun!”
In a community where the population has been on the decline for decades—we have less than 50 residents within the immediate area—this couple was especially glad to see us move in. Both our families are believers.
After the tour, we took turns asking each other the usual neighborly questions.
When I asked about the recent loss of their dog, she told me how grateful they were for the few years they’d had with him. “We’re able to do more traveling now. Bob’s 82 and there are a few places he’d like to see. It’s easier without a pet to care for.”
She told me about other neighbors’ comings and goings, and mentioned one who’s attended their home Bible study.
I told her I’d be praying.
Then she asked, “And how is your family?”
“Well… we’re BUSY, with taxes (keeping detailed records of mileage and expenses, and sorting through receipts), car-pooling, keeping up with our daughter’s senior year activities and chauffeuring her to and from work, plus writing and church events and ministries and…”
Laura listened while plucking dead leaves from a potted plant on the railing beside her.
I continued, “You know, since our church lost two pastors, Ron and I have taken on more responsibility. He not only runs the school, but a lot of things at church, too, and he preaches every week, and we hardly have time to work in the yard, because I’m doing—”
Suddenly she stopped, and looked right at me. Then she reached for my hands and asked, “Wow! You’re overwhelmed, I can tell. What can I do to help?”
Genuine concern flowed from the woman standing in front of me, and I almost cried.
“Yes, it’s a little overwhelming, but in a good way. Just pray for us, Laura. Really, we could just use some extra prayer.”
“Oh, I am always praying for you. We’re so glad you’re here—so glad God brought you to our little town.”
“Thank you!” I was humbled by her concern, amazed that she would take the time to pray for us, a family she hardly knows. At that moment I was immensely grateful for her friendship, in this out-of-the-way place, unexpected as it was (a topic for another time).
I hugged her, saying, “I’m glad you’re here, too.”
Walking away toward home I whispered a prayer of thanks for her friendship. It was one of the few times we’ve had to visit. Even though our lives have taken us in such different directions, we both somehow ended up here. As believers. As neighbors. And each time I come away feeling blessed—by her faith, her wisdom and wit, her ability to see God’s hand in every opportunity.
And so we parted ways—two neighbors whose paths happened to merge that morning. Totally unplanned.
Far from dressed up.
Friends out of necessity.
With at least a 30-year age difference, and having only a few things in common.
Yet, she and I had an understanding. Not only does God have a way of re-routing our plans, but because of shared faith in Jesus Christ, none of our differences, and none of the externals matter.
As in water face answers to and reflects face, so the heart of man to man. – Proverbs 27:19 (Amplified Bible)