by Carrie Neely-Etheridge
“You grew weary from your many wanderings, but you did not say ‘It is useless’. You found your desire rekindled, and so you did not weaken.”
Last year after Christmas our family met with others at the church to help take down the Christmas decorations. When things were just about wrapped up and we were getting ready to leave Mrs. Maxine stopped me and asked if I would like a couple of the poinsettias from the entryway. She said they were a bit worse for wear and otherwise they’d probably end up in the garbage, but the kids had enthusiastically taken notice of them and they were very happy to take the plants home with us. Unfortunately, these poinsettias did not fare well at my house and it was only another week or two before they lost the last of their leaves and looked pretty sad. I set the dead plants aside and figured I’d deal with them later.
On a good year I go from excitedly wanting to grow all the things and horribly neglecting my garden and houseplants, without much in between. This year was no different, but the anxiety the pandemic brought had kind of set my growing fervor into high gear. The potted plants and seed trays doubled in number and by the end of the spring there were as many flourishing garden beds as there were abandoned plants around the house. I ended up moving all of my tragic plants outside under a tree, hoping I would remember to water them at some point. While moving them outside I did notice some new growth on one of the poinsettias Mrs. Maxine had given us but didn’t give it much thought.
When the first cold snap came this fall I guiltily remembered my tragic plants under the tree and went to move any survivors inside. Much to my surprise I found a full-grown poinsettia, just starting to turn red among the plants. Finding that plant hidden among the weeds I was suddenly flooded with the memory of being back in the sanctuary, surrounded by friends and wrapped up in the hope of the advent season.
During the long summer months when I had been covered in anxiety and fear, this small neglected thing of hope had still managed to thrive. And even now when I am in a place of longing thinking of how different this year’s advent season will be Mrs. Maxine’s simple kindness has given me a precious reminder of our church and our time gathered together in fellowship. I have hope in small kindnesses, I have hope in neglected plants that still grow, I have hope that we will be able to join in fellowship again, and I have hope in the example of love given to us by Jesus.