I am so honored to introduce you all to my sweet friend, Alison, today! Alison was one of my very first friends on this blogging journey. Learning and growing from and with her has been a gift. Her passion and wisdom are honest and real. And she chooses brave. What’s not to love, right? Thank you, Alison, for sharing these beautiful words with us! -Katie
My phone played its tune around 9:00am. I answered, and one of the oldest members of my church asked if I’d like to come help her and her husband in the church gardens.
“Bring a shovel. And wear something lightweight. Oh, and Alison? You should be prepared to drink lots of water.”
Twenty minutes later I was driving the shovel into dirt, pulling out overgrown weeds and dominating irises. This couple, married nearly 60 years, gathered their gloves and shovels and dug in right next to me.
For hours, we dug – sometimes in complete silence, but more often chatting while sweat rolled down our necks and we gulped down water.
As the sun beat down and our legs were sore from pounding shovels into hard ground, the wife and I took a walk to the roses. I watched her snip the dead buds, pulling off beetles and squishing them between gloved fingers. She told me about how she used to have over 50 rose bushes lining her yard, because her husband worked late and she wanted something to keep her occupied.
Rose pruning was her great art.
She taught me about cutting the sucker branches off of a tomato plant, allowing the main branch to receive more nourishment. “Even when it’s about to bud, you make a decision. And usually the decision is to cut it off.”
And then there was the story about her childhood victory garden, a place she went to pray because her cousin was captured and left in a Japanese concentration camp. At six years old, she learned to prune and plant, dig and fertilize. At six years old, she carried the vast burden to intercede on behalf of an imprisoned brother.
I refilled my water bottle, drove away from the church, and let her words settle for a while. In less than half a day, I had watched this elderly couple value hard work and the power of a flower-bed to invite people into the church. The husband had shared his greatest marriage wisdom, not because I thought to ask, but because he knew I needed to hear it. His southern accent emphasizing all the right words, he said: just always remember to leave time for talking.
So I keep going back. I leave with a sore back and a full heart.
There are a handful of reasons why I could have said no to helping out that first morning. Some of them have to do with work and time-management, sure. But most of them are rooted in some sort of fear.
Fear that I might not have anything in common with this couple generations ahead of me in age.
Fear that I won’t know what to say in response to their stories.
Fear that our experiences are just a bit too unique to relate.
But sometimes you show up with a shovel and an ice-cold water bottle and you just start digging. You choose bravery over fear. You choose to enter into lives and listen as someone talks about pruning rose bushes, because something wildly simple about that lesson will stick with you forever.
I was sitting in this woman’s car, cooling off and taking a break from the humidity. She asked about my vision for our church, and about my husband’s vision. I shared pieces of our conversations over the past few months – how we’re passionate about worship, how we have a heart for inviting people into our home, and how we’re praying for some sort of revival to hit our town square in the face and wake up the lost.
She didn’t say anything at first. She just listened and nodded and wiped her dripping brow.
But as I got out of the car to continue digging, she caught my arm. “Thanks for giving me hope.”
She must have seen my puzzled look – me giving her hope? She continued, “There is nothing more exciting for an old person like me than seeing a young person like you get excited about church. You’ve given me hope.”
Fear gets in the way of too much these days, and this may be one of the most destructive sacrifices we’re making: forgoing time with those older, or younger, than we are. We all have something to offer, beautiful life experiences and stories and wisdom. Victory gardens and marriage advice and tomato-pruning skills.
Hebrews 13:7 reminds us to “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” And then in verse 8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (ESV)
Those verses seem misplaced when read in unison, but there are no misplaced words in Scripture. And that means that Jesus remaining the same, influences our decision to remember our leaders. Christ’s sameness guarantees that this older couple served, and continues the serve, the same God I serve. The wife prayed to the same God in her victory garden. The husband worshipped the same God in his farm fields.
This makes their wisdom, teaching, and stories more powerful than we give credit.
What Jesus has done for them He continues to do for me. His faithfulness rests on a solid foundation of sameness, and so their stories testify to Him in a way I have yet to experience – but need to understand deep in my soul.
Let us never forgo the giving of our time for something this special. It is worth dirt under our fingernails and throbbing muscles. It is worth our sacrifice and the possibility of awkward.
This opportunity, saying yes to these moments, is the sweetest kind of brave.
Alison Tiemeyer has a passion for stories, grace, and settling into stillness. She is a wife, writer, reader, and excited learner. But at her core is a fierce love for Jesus. She writes to make His story shine brighter. You can find her at www.alisontiemeyer.com or on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.