by Amy Lindberg
“That faith first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I know you now have that same faith.”
2 Timothy 1:5b
“Daddy, tell us a story.”
Tim chuckled at the two smiling faces, waiting expectantly, their large green eyes pleading.
“I don’t know, it’s past your bedtime, princess,” Tim said, tilting his head down and kissing Sarah on the forehead.
“But…” Sarah paused, searching, “…we’re not tired just yet, so please Daddy?”
“Because Daddy, even Hoppy wants another story, ‘cause he thinks you tell the bestest stories, Daddy,” Hannah tried, holding up a well-loved stuffed bunny. Hannah cast a sideways glance at her big sister while reinserting her tiny thumb into her mouth.
“Well, you know I can’t say no to Hoppy. One story for Hoppy and my two best girls before we say our prayers.” Tim made a silly face, and a triumphant Hannah scooted over to make room for her daddy and Sarah under her soft pink comforter.
When both Sarah and Hannah had snuggled in close, Tim began, “Once upon a time there was a little old lady who lived in a little blue house. Her house had a white picket fence around it and a big oak tree in the front yard.”
“Was the tree big ‘nough for a treehouse, Daddy?” Hannah interrupted.
“’Member Daddy said old lady, Hannah,” Sarah said, giving her baby sister an exasperated look as though that explained everything.
Tim corrected his older child with a reproving glance and answered, “It sure was, baby, but this lady didn’t have a treehouse. Instead, she had a garden. This garden filled up her whole backyard and every day she would go out and tend to her flowers. She would pluck the weeds from around her impatiens and pansies and water her rosebushes, larkspur and sunflowers. Every day after she finished she would sit on a stone bench in the center of her garden in her broad-brimmed hat and red rubber shoes.
Now just three houses down her quiet street lived the little old lady’s grandson, a little boy about your age, Sarah. He had bright green eyes and blond curly hair and a dusting of freckles across his nose, just like you girls. He was a mischievous little boy, and he loved to tiptoe down the street and peer over the picket fence at his grandma in her funny hat and shoes. He and his grandma would play a game sometimes, and she would try to spot him as he crept up on her. The lady especially liked spending time with her grandson, and would often invite him into her blue house for cookies or a snack.
Sometimes, the little boy and his mommy would go and visit Grandma together, and these days were the little boy’s favorites. His mom and Grandma would share a cup of tea in his grandma’s garden and talk about big things, like where God was when things didn’t go just right. The little boy listened while they talked about these things, and he would ponder them as he watched the lazy bumblebees buzzing around his grandma’s flowers or as he prodded the busy black ants before they went scurrying into their tidy anthills.
One summer day the little boy made it all the way to the white picket fence without Grandma spotting him. He hunched down on the sidewalk and reverently stroked one of the roses moseying through the slats. His mommy had told him never to pick Grandma’s flowers. But he wasn’t picking, exactly, just sort of admiring. That’s when he heard the funniest thing, his grandma was whispering. The little boy peered through the slats into Grandma’s brightly colored garden, concerned that maybe she had found another little boy just like him to share cookies with, or maybe she had caught him touching her delicate roses. But, no! There was nobody else in the garden, and Grandma was bent over talking to her flowers!”
“Really, Daddy, she really talked to her flowers?” Sarah asked breathlessly, because she couldn’t hardly believe a grown up would talk to flowers.
“She sure did, princess. Well by now the little boy was as confused as you are, but he listened as hard as he could, and still he couldn’t make out what Grandma was saying. So he just kept his face pressed between the slats until Grandma saw him and invited him in for a cookie.
Now because the little boy practiced every day, he was getting very good at making it all the way to the fence before Grandma spotted him. Often times when he would get there he would hear Grandma talking to her flowers. Each day he would wait as patiently as a little boy could until Grandma spotted him.
One day the little boy couldn’t stand it anymore. After returning home from Grandma’s house, the little boy wandered into the kitchen and perched haphazardly on a countertop stool, tugging at a Band-aid on his knee. His mom glanced up from stirring the sticky spaghetti noodles.
“How’s Grandma, buddy?”
The little boy scrunched his forehead. “I don’t know, Mom, I’m think I’m worried about her, maybe you and me could do some praying.”
Bothered, his mom stopped stirring. “Of course we can pray, but what makes you worried?”
“Well, see, I think, Grandma, well, she talks to her flowers, Mom. Each day I get to her fence and she is talking to her flowers, so maybe she is sick or something. So I’m worried, Mom.”
“Oh, I see. Well, we can always pray for your Grandma, but I think you should ask her about that yourself before you worry too much, maybe she’ll tell you her garden’s secret, like she told me when I was a little girl.” His mom smiled, cherishing her son’s tender heart.
The very next day the little boy was determined to discover Grandma’s secret. Instead of playing the game, he marched down the sidewalk and through his grandma’s back gate. “I have a question, Grandma,” he began purposefully, “why do you talk to your flowers?”
Grandma’s silvery laugh bounced around the garden like a sunbeam and the crinkles in her face deepened underneath her funny hat. “Wherever did you get the idea I talk to my flowers?”
Indignant, the little boy countered, “I am a very good sneaker, Grandma, maybe the best ever, and every day I see you sitting on that bench talking to your flowers.” The little boy waved his hand in the direction of the stone bench in the center of the garden.
Grandma’s eyes followed his hand to the stone bench, but instead of speaking her gaze lovingly continued around her garden, caressing each of her flowers. Finally, she dug her hand deep into the pocket of her worn apron and motioned the little boy closer.
“What do you see in my hand?”
“Tiny pebbles, or seeds maybe?”
“That’s right, these are seeds, do you see how they look different? Each one will grow up to be a different flower. Can you tell by looking at them which one will be a violet and which one will be a daisy?”
“No, I can’t, but still, why do you talk to them?”
“Well, you see, God knows what each tiny seed will grow up to be.” Grandma explained patiently. “All I can do is plant the seeds and water them. God does all the rest and they grow into this beautiful garden.” The little boy nodded in solemn agreement; he thought his grandma’s garden was the most beautiful place in the whole world and God had certainly done a good job with it.
“So when I whisper in my garden, I am not talking to my flowers, I am talking to God. I am asking him to grow up the seeds into the flowers they are supposed to be, so this garden will reflect how creative and good God is. Do you see?”
The little boy nodded.
“But that’s not all, do you want to know the real secret?” Grandma asked in a hushed tone.
The little boy looked around Grandma’s garden again and bobbed his head eagerly.
“Each flower in this garden reminds me of someone, like your mom and dad, and you, too. And even of people I haven’t met yet, like the little girl who will grow up to be your wife someday, and the children you will have many years from now. So when I am out here praying in my garden, I am not just praying for the flowers to bloom, I am praying for each person I love to bloom too. It helps me to remember that all I can do for my family is pray, just like all I can do is plant and water my seeds. I need my garden as constant reminder that it’s God who grows my family up into beautiful flowers that reflect his love and bloom for Him.”
“Grandma, so you mean you were praying for me all these days when I thought you were talking to your flowers?” The little boy scrunched his forehead, putting the puzzle together.
“That’s right, Timothy, I always pray for you and your mom, and the children you will have someday too. I want them all to know Jesus and be planted in God’s gardenin heaven with God and me someday.”
Tim paused and chuckled, watching his daughters figure the story out.
“Wait, so Daddy, was the little boy in the story you?” Sarah asked uncertainly.
“So the lady with the funny hat was my Gramma?” Hannah piped in.
“She was your Great Grandma Lois, your Grandma Eunnie’s mommy.”
Sarah’s eyes sparkled with pure astonishment. “Great Grandma Lois prayed for me, even before I was born? And she wants me to be in heaven with her and Jesus someday?”
“She wanted that so much, princess.”
“You mean I was one of her flowers too?” Hannah asked around her thumb.
“You are, baby.”