of unexpected stops along the road…

(the pictures throughout this post will come from a field trip my kids and I took this week with a dear friend. it was the BEST of times. a little country zoo where my kids had some space to move about and a potato chip factory tour, were the perfect duo for a little jaunt down to the Maryland line. if you’re local and wanting something fun and cheap and not too extravagant to do with your kiddos this summer, I would definitely recommend trying these place out. if you’ve ever seen the movie We Bought A Zoo, this zoo is sort of like that. Check out the website for more info here)
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A couple days ago, I stopped at a little roadside stand to check about getting some fresh blackberries. They looked so delicious and juicy, but at $4 for a pint, I just couldn’t see they would be that great of a buy for our family of six. I frowned and got back in my vehicle and drove off.
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Not more than a quarter mile down the road, I saw another little something for sale by the side of the road. I thought it said water lilies and so, I turned the van around and went back to check it out.
Sure enough, there by the side of the road at the end of the drive, were two five-gallon buckets of water lilies for sale for $5 each.
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The girl who won’t pay four dollars for food for her family will turn around and spend five green ones on a plant? Makes a lot of sense, I know… i really cannot explain this in any good way. It’s just the kind of thing I’m prone to doing, I reckon.
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I only had a ten dollar bill in my wallet and as is customary in this area, there was an honor system set up beside of the lilies. However, that little cool whip container held nothing but a little bit of water that had come in through the hole cut in the top.
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So, I headed to the front door of the house to see if anyone was home and could give me change. I knocked on the screen door and then stepped back to wait and see if anyone would answer. As I stepped back, I could not help but notice the beautiful blue hydrangea bush taking over the one corner of the porch and the wispy vine growing along the other side of the porch. I was just about to give up on anyone coming to the door when a tiny little grandma came out. She was barely 5 feet tall and hunched over from (undoubtedly) years of very hard work. I told her I wanted to purchase one of the lily’s out front and would she have change for my ten? ‘Oh, yes, I think so’ she said and went back inside to fetch it. As she closed the screen and left the inside door open, I could not help but smell onions cooking and catch a glimpse of a beautiful quilt in the frame that she had been working on. I breathed in the sight and smell and somehow, felt myself stepping back into a simpler time and place.
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A few minutes passed and soon the sweet soul was back with my change. I thanked her and commented on the beauty of her flowers and inquired as to what the vine was growing off the side. ‘I don’t know what it is, but it sure likes to grow!’ was her reply. She then asked if I would like a start of it because there were several new shoots growing that she said would be very easy to dig out. Of course, I was thrilled with the offer and didn’t have to be asked more than once. ‘Let me dig them out for you,’ she said and then went back to get a trowel. She bent over and retrieved the shoots and put them in a bag for me and I expressed my gratitude. I was curious if she had a fish pond since she was selling lilies and immediately she said; ‘yes, would you like to see it?’ If it’s not taking too much of your time, I would enjoy that very much, but I should get my girls out of the car first, I told her. ‘Oh, yes, the children might really enjoy this too!’ was her next remark. I’m Rachel I told her as I extended my hand. ‘And, my name is Francis’ she answered back.
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The gentle spirit about her intrigued me and the graciousness she showed to me, a total stranger, was completely refreshing and beautiful.
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Ava was immediately game for a little jaunt, and dear Kate, just the thought of getting out of her car seat puts her in a better mood, so that was an easy sell for both of my girlies!
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We made our way back around the side of the house and there were so many beautiful perennials to behold; so many rose bushes, Mandeville vines, hydrangea bushes and grapes growing on the arbor. She led us back toward the back of her property where there was a barn off to the side and a greenhouse just behind the simple little fish pond she had. Lots of goldfish came darting to the top to greet us and there were both yellow and pink water lilies skimming the surface of the water.
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We made small talk about fish and plants and then she asked the girls names. I told her and that we also have 2 boys, and then wondered how many children she had. ‘Five girls and one boy living. But, we buried 3 boys and one girl when they were between the ages of 6 weeks and 3 months old’ was the answer that she gave. I could not think of anything intelligent to say and I really could have just cried on the spot. After a brief second of shock, I expressed my sympathy. I wondered if they had a disease or why they died and she said they all had a blood disorder that there was no cure or help for at that time. I just could barely think to say anything and yet I said I could not imagine how Hard that must have been. ‘Yes, it was hard. Especially when I would be expecting and not knowing if the baby I was carrying would also have the disease. It was very hard. But, I know they are all in a better place and very well taken care of.’
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Suddenly, that gentle spirit and graciousness took on a new light for me. Before me stood a woman who had walked many a hard road and I now saw that gentle spirit and graciousness as the lessons life had taught her thru many a very hard road.
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We exchanged a few more words about things and then I told her I must be on my way as I had groceries in my vehicle that would not keep. I thanked her for the lily and we left.
But, I’ll be back.
That lily was in a five gallon bucket that I must return in the next few days.
Well, I say I must. Francis told me it was not a a big deal whether or not I did bring it back.
To me though, it is.
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I want the chance to go back and speak to her again. I want to experience again her world of simplicity. And, that graciousness and gentle spirit she exudes… I need to learn more of that.
To her, I may well have been just a stranger buying a flower.
But, to me, she was a beautiful picture of something symbolic and simplistic and refreshing.
I could use to become a lot more like Francis.
From her maybe I could learn how to become a gentle and gracious spirit that accepts and gives to strangers that make unexpected stops along my life’s roadway.

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7 thoughts on “of unexpected stops along the road…

  1. What a God-moment that was!! I am so moved by hearing just a bit of her story ~ I cannot imagine actually being the one having this introduction! What a precious moment…

  2. So I’m going to try this new way of commenting…using an email address I no longer use.
    We’ll see if it works!

    Love all your pictures.
    Amazing story! I love when unexpected stops turn into such blessings. It’s always so fun when God has moments like that planned for us and we don’t even know it!

    Happy Monday to you Rachel. 🙂

  3. Such a darling little zoo! I loved all the pictures, but even more, I loved reading about Francis. She sounds like such a beautiful spirit. I hope you let us know about your visit with her when you return the bucket.

  4. Good afternoon, Rachel! I love your new blog and this entry spoke so much to my heart. I know jus the sort of elderly soul you write of, there is nothing like that sweet spirit. It’s how Rich’s grandmother was in her old age as well. The hard knocks of a long life truly tenderize the Christian soul. YOU will be that same way, I know. God is good.
    PLEASE visit her again soon and let us know how it goes!

  5. Francis and your telling of her lovely spirit and beautiful place have tears welling in my eyes. Isn’t she who we Christ-following women want to be ~ at least in some degree or measure? And as is almost always the case, the sweetness formed in her came from responding well (and worshiping well) in the good and hard times of life. It’s a reality I have to face and embrace. Thanks for sharing!

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