O Canada

To Decorate a GardenR6

Jaime Schreiner

A day is Eternity's seed, and we are its Gardeners.

—Erika Harris

It had been a long day and was getting to be an even later night. Our family had been at the lake for nearly a month. On our way home, we stopped to visit friends and ended up staying much later than planned. We just wanted to get home. We all wanted to soak in the tub and sleep in our own beds. I was already regretting keeping our little ones up so late, and the plan was to get them into bed as soon as possible.

I hadn't considered that God might have made other plans.

As we were driving through a town we'd lived in two years before, we passed a familiar house. It was the home of an older gentleman my husband befriended at his previous job, several years before. This man lived alone, and over the years we shared many meals and visits. My husband had generally done everything he could to look out for him. Unfortunately, our move two years earlier caused us to lose touch. This gentleman didn't even have a phone.

As we passed by his house, my husband mentioned that we should stop by the following week on our way back up to the lake. I agreed, of course. Then I felt the tug.

"You know, maybe we should stop there tonight. Like, right now." I couldn't believe what I was saying. All I wanted to do was get home.

"No, that's okay. We'll stop next time. We're already pretty late."

We drove on for about a minute. Then, my husband turned to look at me.

"We really are supposed to stop there right now, aren't we?"

I nodded, and we whipped the truck around and drove back to the house. I am always thankful when God speaks loud enough that I can't ignore Him. I couldn't help but wonder, why now? Why was it so important on this night that we stop?

As we all piled out of the truck, we saw the man in his yard, walking toward us. He stopped for a minute and stared, as if confused. Then, his eyes filled with recognition and tears as my husband walked towards him, carrying our girls. There we stood in his yard, him crying as he spoke of how we were family to him, and my daughters picking wildflowers and placing them all around, happy as could be. They didn't seem to mind being up so late, and I was starting to see how important our short visit was to this man.

Then, as if God Himself was answering all my earlier questions, my three-year-old skipped up to me and said, "Mom, we're here just decorating his garden!"

She danced off, and I was the one left standing there in tears. What is it worth to us to touch someone's soul, to "decorate their garden"? Would we give our time? Are we willing to give a gift that meets someone else's needs? Is it something we just talk about, or something our kids see us do on a regular basis?

We had a wonderful visit as we caught up on life, and our excited old friend insisted we couldn't leave without taking home some of his fresh garden vegetables. The pure joy on his face reassured me that we had indeed done the right thing in turning our truck around.

As we passed through his kitchen on our way home, much later that night, my kids drew my attention to something. On his fridge were four pictures, and nothing else. Those four pictures were of my kids and family. Four pictures given to him with Christmas cards each of the years we had sent him some Christmas baking. My eyes welled up with tears for the second time that evening. I had never understood the place we held in his heart.

We knew there had to be more pictures, baking, meals, and visits. It was something we had to do, despite the distance between us.

I can say I hope my kids learned something that night, about how real giving requires real sacrifice, and about obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit or your inner voice. But I'm not sure who needed that lesson more, my kids or myself. It's easy to give our leftovers and toss-offs; the challenge is to give up something that is in limited supply and of value to us, such as our time. It may be hard to give away, but who knows, it might look even more beautiful decorating someone else's garden.

(782 words)