2014 © Anne Rose
Some years ago, I got the idea to plant a large garden full of all kinds of wildflowers. Nothing unusual there. Perennials were the rage.
But I had something more in mind than just flowers. I had the specific intention of honoring Our Blessed Mother and Jesus by shaping two large hearts, tip-to-tip, right in our front yard.
As excited as I was about this whole thing, I also felt a little hesitant about it. Clearly, this would put my faith out there in a big way. It would say more definitively than ever that I was totally camped in the back woods.
I don’t know why I was concerned about this, because if you’d ask anyone who knows me, they’d tell you that that’s always been the case with me. But for some reason, in my mind the jury was still out.
I have to tell you, even in spite of these harassments, I put on my work boots and got out the spade. Besides, with any luck, a jungle of colorful flora would eventually overwhelm the design, thereby hiding my crazy religious fervor.
I had plenty of luck in this regard. Those flowers went nuts, growing all over the place. After a few years, I could hardly contain the little weeds. I had to cut ‘em back just to save the house.
You’d think I’d have seen it coming. Why, it said it right on the can: “Wildflower seeds.” And they weren’t kidding. Did I think I’d wind up with a plot of pretty petunias? No siree, that didn’t happen. No cookie cutter flowers in our yard.
My husband, Jim, must have seen it coming all along. I could see it in his glassy-eyed look. As far as he was concerned, I might just as well have parked one of our old cars out there and planted it full of corn. (Maybe next year.) Anyway, it didn’t take long before he popped the question: “What do you think of tearing out that monstrosity and planting grass?”
“Oh, perish the thought. How could I ever?—but if you insist. It’ll kill me, you know …”
A backhoe did the trick (just kidding). It was especially helpful with those towering cosmos flowers. I had broken two axe handles trying to get those things out of there. But once they were uprooted, the rest took only about three days.
Now that the front yard looked like a Wal-Mart-readied site, I understood how much I’d miss that paradise-after-the-fall. It had been so much me: well-intentioned and out of control. When it got right down to it, I had loved my little garden and all its untamed ways. And most of all, I had loved what it had stood for: my Mama and my Jesus. As I said good-bye to this overgrown dream, I placed my hand on my heart and promised to always keep my two friends enclosed in it. I remembered my promise every time I rode my tractor over the uneven spot in the lawn, every time I circled the scraggly ornamental grass, the only thing left of the garden.
In the meantime, Jim and I put on our logging hats. Over the years our yard had started to resemble a bowling alley, so many trees had gone down. After another fierce storm, I looked out the window one water-soaked morning and shook my head. “You’ve got to be kidding, God. We can’t cut up any more trees. You’re wearing me out. Pleaseeee!”
It wasn’t until I walked alongside this last one, another gigantic cherry tree, then walked atop its long horizontal trunk, and finally stood beside it again almost teary-eyed, that the most incomprehensible words came into my head. I’m trying to show you how much I love you.
“Huh? Come again with that one. You show me your love me by knocking down magnificent trees: oak, maple, cherry, pine? Trees that have been here for over 50 years? I don’t get it.”
It got to the point where it was weird going to bed at night. Who knew what havoc would be wreaked? The first thing I’d think about in the morning after a storm was the bathroom—no, the yard. And in relief, I’d ask “Hey, God, You still love me? You haven’t knocked over any trees lately. Just wondering …” Naturally, it was one of those questions I was almost afraid to ask.
But unvanquished, we sawed ‘til our ears rang with a relentless roar. Big old red logs. Piles of branches ripe for the fire. Oh, we’d be warm come winter. It wasn’t all bad, it seemed.
Life has a strange way about it sometimes. And as it turned out, this was one of those times. For you see, I came to find out that it wasn’t about staying warm for the winter. No, it wasn’t about most of the things I had imagined it to be. Never could I have guessed, actually, what the true purpose was, except that He had told me. And it lay hidden in that tree for over half a century.
You see, when Jim went to cut through the jagged edge of the trunk where it had snapped off the base of the tree, my eyes almost dislodged. How could this be? He loves me! He loves me in a tree! There it was: the tree was a cherry heart. Never in a zillion light years could I fathom this God of mine.
We sliced a section of that heart and put it on our porch—as a remembrance. Just like the thump in my chest every time I rolled my tractor over the little bump in the lawn. All for them.
I would have been satisfied if that had been the end of the story. And it did seem to be for about ten years. But there was more …
One fine day the chain saw was at it again. Ever the German, the elements in my life tend to be reduced to the fastest and the simplest. Ergo, the saw. We have eight ornamental grasses in our yard. I don’t have all day to cut the old growth. Besides, it’s fun. Rev, rev and it’s all gone. So there was one left to trim—the one closest to my heart—the one from the garden. I didn’t think He’d surprise me again. Not like this. Not another heart—a grass heart no less! And of all things, it seemed to be pointing to the old wooden heart on the front porch.
I would have been satisfied if that had been the end of the story…
The next time God took only two weeks to work His wonders. To my utter surprise, I won the big one: a replica of an original wood carving from Italy of the Holy Family with St. Anne that was specially done for our parish. My two friends were back again, now hanging on my wall, the same wall that faces the heart on the front porch. The carving was worth $3500 by the way. I only mention this because it was a hundred-fold return. This, being all the sweeter, because I gave when my pockets were turned inside out: a $35 gift of a John Paul II video to the same priest who commissioned this piece of art. (“Is there anything else you need, Father?”) You probably understand why I’m excited about waking up each day. This God of ours loves to love.
I would have been satisfied if this had been the end of the story… (My husband was not so sure.)
God woke me early just two weeks later. It wasn’t to look out to see if any trees had fallen, either. No, this time He brought a heart into the room at the foot of my bed. That’s where I was sitting, reading my journal about all these events in my life. I didn’t notice it at first. But then, I looked up to see it suspended there in mid air. Oh, I know you’ll say that it was a helium balloon that simply ran out of gas. And that’s true. I mean after over 40 days hanging in my room, I’d expect that. But this was more.
Somehow, this Valentine Day heart from my husband had maneuvered to a position that was dead center in the middle of the bed and face-high to me. The hot air register kept trying to blow it away, yet it fluttered and kept itself squared off as if to look me in the eye. I didn’t miss the message: A dove was taking flight toward a heart, with the words “My Valentine, I love you.”
I hope you know this isn’t the end of the story. If you’re reading this, you’re part of it now. And I know without a doubt that He wants to give His heart to you, too.
So what are you waiting for?