I’m sitting on my in-laws’ back porch in Marlin, Texas, thinking that I need some sort of distraction. My eyes settle on my father in-law’s cactus garden. It’s getting a little weedy, and I’m thinking there’s probably nothing like weeding out between a bunch of cacti to keep my mind off of all the goings on. I find a pair of gardening gloves, a couple of gardening tools, and a kneeling pad in the garage, and set out on my mission.
My husband is somewhere out here doing a bit of work because I catch the scent of his Arturo Fuente cigar as I walk out of the garage. I throw the gloves on, set down the kneeling pad, have a seat, pull off my tennis shoes because I work better barefooted, and start popping and pulling those weeds. I hear my husband’s voice somewhere behind me yell, “Hey redneck girl!” Then my father in-law follows up with, “Don’t let those cactus get you!” “Okay, I won’t.” Then he says, “Watch out for ants!” “Okay, I will.” Then I get back to work, pop, pull, pop, pull with my little gardening tool. I don’t think about a thing going on in this world while pulling those weeds. I feel that glorious sun beaming down on my arms, my legs, and my bare feet. I feel the cool breeze cooling the sweat starting to break out on the back of my neck. Oh it feels so good. It all takes me back to when I was a little girl sitting down in my grandfather’s vegetable garden, grabbing little hand fulls of the freshly tilled dirt, and letting it fall through my fingers. Pop, pull, pop, pull. I grab those weeds and hold them in my hand, roots and black dirt dangling from them. Pop, pull, pop, pull, concentrating so hard, but maybe not hard enough, because the next thing I know, I feel a sharp pain. I’ve hit a cactus that I didn’t see. It’s buried a little, and it has found me. I lift my hand and see the thorn sticking out of the top of a finger where it had found the least protective part of my gardening glove. I just stop and stare at it before pulling it out, and I’m brought back to the reality of why we are here. Partly because of a virus that has turned the world upside down, but to tell you the truth, that’s not what has been in the forefront of our minds. Instead, there is something a little more personal, a little more menacing. I turn around and see my in-laws sitting together in quiet conversation on their covered porch. I wonder how many conversations they have had in their sixty years of marriage, too many to count. Now these conversations in recent days have become more precious, time together has become more precious. I think about how life can just change in a moment. Life is like making your way through a cactus garden. You think you’re doing just fine and then all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain, and out of nowhere it seems, a thorn has found its target.
Clouds are moving in as I sit, and it’s beginning to feel like rain. I turn my gaze away from the back porch. I turn towards the sky, feeling that Texas wind on my face, tears in my eyes. I thank God for my husbands’ parents who raised a fine man that God sent my way. I thank God for our precious time together and ask Him to help me to appreciate that time even more. I look at the wooden fence and see the wooden cross hanging there above the cactus, the thorns, and weeds. I think about Jesus on the cross, a crown of thorns adorning his head. I know He is with us no matter what happens. No matter if the world is turned upside down. No matter how many thorns stick us, He takes our pain away. I get back to work, knowing everything is going to be okay. Pop, pull, pop, pull making my way through the cactus garden, Jesus at my side.