Story by Joan Wester Anderson
Shortly after our family bought a house in Chicago’s northwest suburbs in September 1971, I met Lynne Gould. She appeared at the door one morning, accompanied by several small sons, to welcome us to the neighborhood. I invited her in, but she took one look at the boxes marked Fragile–China still stacked on my floors, and declined (which endeared her to me right away).
The Goulds lived directly behind us, our deep yards separated by a tall hedge with an opening in it, which we used as a gate. I loved all our neighbors, but Lynne was special. Immediately we sensed a bond and found ourselves cutting past surface chatter and delving more deeply into each other’s feelings and beliefs.
Few topics were out of bounds for us, but spirituality was a particular favorite. We discovered that, although we were both Catholic, our faith attitudes differed. Lynne seemed relaxed, confident in God’s tender care, His willingness to get personally in her daily life. Me? As one philosopher said, the longest distance anyone travels is the twelve inches from the head to the heart. I tended to be dutiful, a bit scrupulous, and hard on myself. Although I had never thought of God as harsh or frightening, it was difficult to believe that His love for me was truly unconditional. As for miracles, they happened to saints, not ordinary people like me.
We had lived in our house for just a few weeks when autumn leaves began falling. Actually, they rained down, thickly covering our quarter acre. I collected lawn bags, and one afternoon when the children were in school, I went into the yard to rake.
The warm, sunlit day was delightful, but I made little headway. At the end of an hour, I had stuffed six bags, but there were several huge piles of leaves waiting, and half the yard remained untouched. Home ownership was losing its charm. I leaned on the rake a moment, pushed the hair back from my eyes–and the world seemed to stop. There were no rings on my left hand. My diamond engagement ring and wedding band–not removed since our marriage–were gone.
Just then Lynne stepped through the hole in the hedge. Although she was at least fifty feet from me, she must have seen the shock on my face. “What’s the matter?” she called. “My rings–they’re missing!” I could barely speak. I had lost a little weight during our move, and they must have slipped off somehow. But when? Where? Lynne waded across the lawn to me. “When was the last time you saw them?” she asked.
Frantically I searched my memory, examining all the small, ordinary things I’d done that day. Making breakfast for the children, loading the washing machine–how often we glance at our hands without really seeing them. But I was sure I would have noticed missing rings during earlier tasks.
“They must have fallen off out here,” I told Lynne, surveying the landscape with a sinking heart. How could we find anything in all that debris? I would never see the rings again. And not only were the uninsured, they were loved, irreplaceable! Tears filled my eyes.
Lynne was more practical. “Let’s pray about it,” she said, and she knelt right down in the middle of the leaves. And, because she had hold of my hand, so did I. “God,” Lynne began with preamble, “we’ve got a problem here?” Briefly she outlined the situation.
Despite my agitation, I felt a little embarrassed. What if a neighbor looked out and saw us praying–in public! Yet I was fascinated too. Lynne was talking to God with easy familiarity, as if He was her real Father, someone who cared so much about her that He would be interested in anything she told Him. Well, why not? I thought suddenly. I’m a parent, and there’s nothing my children could need that I wouldn’t provide. If I was truly His child, wouldn’t it work the same way?
Lynne was finishing her discussion. “We need a miracle, God,” I heard her say. “Please let us find the rings.” She sat back on her heels, wordlessly surveying the yard. Not for a moment did I assume God would actually do anything about her request. But Lynne had been dear to stand by.
As I watched, however, her eyes traveled across the orange and yellow pile. Slowly she stood up and walked past several deep mounds. When she reached one on the other side of the yard, she stopped, bent over, plunged her hand into it, and then straightened. “Here they are,” she said, looking into her palm. “Here are your rings.”
I probably screamed before I went running across to her. But there both rings were, unmistakably mine. We looked at each other, our faces wreathed in grins. “How did you–? I hardly knew what to ask.
She laughed. “I didn’t. God did it. I just kind of knew where to look.”
“But that’s impossible!”
“Not really,” she pointed out simply. “We asked for a miracle, didn’t we?”
Something great seemed to tremble in the air, something awesome and wondrous. Was this what it meant to trust? Like two little girls, we had approached our Father, placed a broken toy in His lap, and asked with complete assurance (at least on Lynne’s part), “Daddy, fix it.”
Why should I have been surprised when He did?