Gods Little Flowers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
A family vacation takes a turn and a family grows closer through helping others.

Submitted: May 15, 2008

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Submitted: May 15, 2008

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“I don’t care what your friends at school eat for breakfast, Vanessa. I have told you before, and I’m saying it again: I will NOT buy a bunch of sugary cereal!” Haddie firmly stood her ground. Vanessa heaved a sigh of disgust and rolled her eyes defiantly. Haddie took her attention off the eggs in the skillet and turned to face her fifteen-year-old daughter. Vanessa rested her chin on her palm as she slouched sideways over her plate. Haddie had a thought not uncommon to mothers of teens… For this, I was in labor for 26 and half-hours? For THIS, I have stretch marks?

Haddie continued the fruitless conversation. “If you eat sugar for breakfast you’ll be starving by ten o’clock. You won’t be able to concentrate in class then.”

Vanessa had no logic to argue with her mother, so she pulled out a weapon of guilt from her arsenal and aimed it directly at her mother’s heart. “I just want you to know that I am NOT happy.” Vanessa thrust herself back in her chair, sitting now on her spine; her posture was like lava oozing from a volcanic vent.

Haddie responded quickly and flatly, “I don’t care.” It wasn’t the first time her daughter had spat that line at her.

Vanessa was shocked and dismayed. Her dagger had missed the mark! The only word Vanessa could manage was “What?

Her mother rebounded with confidence and information. “Happiness is a chemical reaction in the brain. I don’t care whether you are happy or not. I care about your health and your school performance. That’s what’ll matter in twenty years.”

Vanessa growled as she jumped up from the kitchen table, threw the remainder of her breakfast in the trash, and dropped her plate and fork in the sink with a loud clatter. She stomped the few inches to her chair and grabbed her backpack, shoving in the homework she had been doing. Heaving a noisy sigh, she threw her pack over one shoulder, and tromped to the kitchen door. “This is SO NOT fair.”

Haddie replied as she had in the past to such a statement, resolute and without missing a beat. “You want fair? It’ll be just outside of town about mid-July. They’ll have rides, animals, and lots of food. I’m not fair. I’m Mom.”

Vanessa quickly and angrily left the house, slamming the door behind her. Amid all the drama, Haddie had forgotten her nine-year-old son. He quietly waited for breakfast, his plate still empty. “Oh, Georgie… I forgot your eggs.” Haddie sighed apologetically as she grabbed his plate and transferred the now over-hard eggs from the skillet. “Sorry, honey. I know you like your yolk runny, but I got caught up with your sister.” She placed his plate on the table in front of him and smoothed down a small cowlick to the back of his short, sandy-brown hair.

George, as he preferred to be called, looked at his mother with an open face. He didn’t want to make her feel any worse than his sister already had, “’S okay, I like your eggs no matter how they’re cooked,” which was not true. He hated his yolk cooked, but he didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Haddie looked into her son’s round, loving eyes and knew he hated his eggs that way. Haddie hated the way she often overlooked one child in favor of the other. She thought Vanessa was unfair to her brother by always demanding the spotlight. However, Haddie was grateful Georgie didn’t make a fuss about the eggs.

After George was finished, Haddie walked out the door with him to the bus stop. George hated how his mother always babied him after she and Vanessa fought. He would never say so; he didn’t want to cause his mom more trouble.

“Georgie, I just want you to know you keep me sane. If you were as difficult as your sister, I just don’t know what I would do!” Haddie smiled, but George could see her discouragement and frustration.

Haddie handed Georgie his bag and leaned over to kiss his cheek as the bus pulled up. George drew back a couple of inches, fearing what his friends would say. It was bad enough she walked him to the stop; I’m not in kindergarten. Doesn’t she know that? He allowed her to kiss him anyway. He figured it might make her day better.

Haddie waved as the bus pulled away. She fell deeply into thought as she turned up her walk. The daffodils were beginning to bud and the crocuses radiated happiness and cheer.

Spring break was just a couple weeks away, and she knew Vanessa wanted to go to South Padre Island in Texas with her friends. She had talked of little else but how awesome it would be if they all stayed at the same hotel and went to the beach together everyday. Though Haddie had never said yes to the vacation, Vanessa knew her mother never said no on the important things.

Haddie mounted the three steps up the porch and crossed to the mailbox. It was yesterday’s mail, but she had been too tired after work to even remember it. She had known it would be a fight with Vanessa to get her homework done and the dishes washed, and she hadn’t the energy for the US Postal Service too.

Haddie glanced over the usual fare of “You might be a winner” and “This is an attempt to collect a debt,” and came across a hand-addressed personal envelope -She was drawn to it immediately. She looked to the upper left corner of the envelope and saw a name she hadn’t seen in fifteen years. Christopher Stevens was a classmate in high school, but she hadn’t thought he was a close enough friend to write her a letter. She opened it with care.

 

Dear Haddie,

Greetings in Christ! I’m sure you’re surprised I’m writing to you. I had to call your mom for your new address. Sorry to hear about Doug…I always thought you were too good for him.

I’m currently working at a mission outreach in a small town in Mexico called Nuevo Progresso (Senora Perrone would be soo proud!) The mission is called “Las Floritas de Dios,” which means “God’s little flowers”…nice, huh?

That Chris was working in missions did not surprise Haddie. He had always been a religious nut.

The joy these children have would blow you away! While by American standards they have nothing but trouble the love of God shines through them and is infectious to all that volunteer here. These children delight in the slightest gifts anyone sends!Families come down here and volunteer on their vacations. They come broken and disjointed, and they go home whole and reconnected! There is nothing the Lord God can’t fix!

What a fantastic opportunity! Perhaps spending their vacation helping at this mission would bring her family together.

Haddie immediately went in and called the travel agent to change the family’s vacation plans. She then called Chris and made all the arrangements for volunteering with him. She decided not to tell Vanessa until she absolutely had to.

 

Getting off the plane in Harlingen, they were all excited about the vacation. After Haddie put the luggage in the trunk of their rental car, George chimed in a request for their noon meal, “I saw a sign by the luggage thing for Whataburger. Could we go there for lunch, Mom?”

As Haddie was also hungry, and as it would postpone the eruption from her daughter, she agreed. “Sure, Georgie. We should try new things while we’re here. Let’s not eat at any restaurant we have back home.”

It was a quiet meal. Georgie played his hand-held game, and Vanessa used her cell to surf the web for things to do on South Padre. Haddie took her What-A-Chicken with a side of guilt, but still didn’t want to reveal her change in plans. If she told her now, Vanessa might talk her out of it, or rather, scream at her until she acquiesced.

After getting back on the road, Haddie wondered how long it would be before Vanessa realized they were going west, not east. Perhaps it was the noonday sun, or her daughter’s certainty of always getting her way that prevented Vanessa’s awareness. Whatever the reason, Haddie knew the stuff would hit the fan as soon as the first “You are about to enter Mexico” sign came up.

“Mom?” Vanessa said, confused, “I think you must of taken a wrong turn somewhere.” Vanessa looked around outside, trying to understand where they were. Adobe buildings and pottery vendors were becoming more frequent, and her mother continued to go straight. “Mom, you need to turn around. You are going to Mexico, Mom.”

Haddie stopped the car and reached in her purse, nervously, as she retrieved the money required to cross the bridge. George had sat up and started looking around while his sister was totally baffled.

Haddie’s heart was pounding, her breathing fast and shallow, and she hoped the guard wouldn’t think she was doing anything illegal. She prayed Vanessa wouldn’t explode here. She could see Vanessa telling the guard she was being kidnapped and taken to Mexico. Haddie took her change and pulled away from the guard and the United States as they began to cross the Rio Grande.

“Mother! What on earth do you think you are doing? This is NOT South Padre Island! My friends are waiting for me! Where are you…” Vanessa stopped as she saw the stream of water running through a gorge under the bridge and realized they were in Mexico. She looked through the fence and saw several plastic milk jugs bobbing around tied upside-down to wooden poles. The bottoms of the containers had been cut off, forming a scoop.

“What are those, Mom?” George asked curiously. Just as he asked, one of the pedestrians on the bridge dropped some change in a couple of the beggar’s cups.

“Mother! They are begging! That’s disgusting! How long are we going to be here?” Vanessa was appalled. Why don’t they just get a job or something?

As they entered the town, George voiced his intrigue as a mule-driven cart passed by. “This is so cool! It’s like we went back in time!”

They turned a corner as they passed a store and restaurant building. “Canadian store? In Mexico? That’s weird. What do they sell there, Maple syrup and bear poop?” Vanessa scoffed, sighed loudly and folded her arms. She turned her head to look away and found herself staring at a mother carrying a small infant. The woman was walking with her hand out calling “Ayudame, por favor” to passers-by.

“Mom, you took Spanish in high school. What does ‘Ayudame’ mean?” Vanessa quietly asked.

“It means ‘Help me.’

“This is a dirty, nasty country full of tacky beggars!” and with that, Vanessa wrote off the entire land.

Haddie felt it was time to tell Vanessa of the change in plans. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Vanessa, because this is where we are going for spring break.” There. Take that!

The road they were on quickly went from paved to dirt as the town ended and wilderness began. There was a still in the car, like the uneasy quiet that falls just before a furious squall. “

Haddie responded with an attempt to be calm, “We are spending our vacation working at a mission that a friend of mine from high school runs.”

“Okay, Mom,” Vanessa growled in frustration, “The operative word there is OUR vacation. You are ruining the MY part in OUR vacation.” Vanessa was reaching the boiling point. It was undoubtedly the angriest moment of her entire life. “I HATE you! You’re RUINING my LIFE!”

The silence that followed was deafening. Haddie turned onto a narrow lane leading up to a large, two-story farmhouse. To the left was a vast field of onions, to the right an open grassy area. A single, sprawling mesquite tree decorated the lawn.

Haddie slowed to a stop in front of the garage. She glanced at Vanessa, who sat staring in her opposite direction, arms crossed tightly. A solitary tear betrayed Vanessa’s hard demeanor. Haddie started to tell her she was sorry; that they would turn around right now and go to South Padre. But before she could speak, Chris knocked on Haddie’s window.

Haddie turned away from Vanessa and opened her car door. Chris greeted Haddie with a hug and a warm smile. “I’m glad to see you all got in all right. Come on in. I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.”

Haddie opened the trunk and each person grabbed something. As they walked to the side door of the house, Haddie gave a short introduction, “Chris, I’d like you to meet Vanessa and Georgie.”

Chris opened the door and greeted each as they passed. “Hello, Vanessa.” Vanessa glared at him silently as she went by. “Hey, George.” The nine-year-old’s face lit up. Chris didn’t call him Georgie!

Haddie sighed, “I’m sorry for her manners, Chris. She’s mad at me and is determined punish everyone.”

Chris chuckled as Haddie entered the house. “Don’t worry about it! Do you think she is the first teenager to come here against her will? Everything will change after tomorrow, you’ll see.”

Chris’s confidence was a comfort to Haddie, but she wasn’t so sure. “I hope you’re right.”

He smiled, knowingly, and said, “I am, trust me.” Chris led his guests through the kitchen, dining room, and living room, then up the stairs. He opened the door to a bedroom. “Haddie and Vanessa, you’ll be sharing our guest room.”

Chris led the youngest visitor down the hall, where he opened the last door. “George, my man, you’re gonna be bunking with my son, Victor.” George looked in and felt overjoyed to have another boy with whom to play. Chris continued, “Victor’s got an XBOX and a few sports games. Do you like video games?”

George leapt onto the bed and answered Chris, “Duh! I’m nine! Gameboy is my life!”

Haddie, who had caught up with them was embarrassed, “Georgie, ‘duh’ is not a nice thing to say.”

Chris laughed, “It’s all right.” Chris turned and opened the door by the boys’ room, “Here’s the bathroom if you want to freshen up. After you’re settled in, come downstairs to the dining room. Dinner should be ready any minute. Linda is making her world famous shepherd’s pie!” Chris rubbed his stomach with his hand and licked his lips. Vanessa rolled her eyes, but she was determined not to ever speak in her mother’s presence again.

Dinner was an unusual setting for Haddie. Instead of eating in different rooms, as they were accustomed, everyone sat around a beautiful, cherry-wood table. Chris talked about the work he was doing in the town, and related the activities they would be doing tomorrow. “We have Easter care packages donated by a group of churches in Oklahoma City to deliver to the homes of some of the neediest families in Nuevo Progresso. You will be blown away by the incredible difference between your life and theirs.”

After dinner, George and Victor disappeared to their room for the evening. Haddie helped Linda with the dishes and talked about her problems with Vanessa. Linda listened for several minutes then asked, “Do you ever tell her you love her, or thank God for her?” Haddie did not have an answer.

The weary travelers went to bed early. It had been a long day of disappointment and battles. Vanessa, still not speaking, thought of the beggar-mother she had seen earlier in the day and wondered if she would be on their list tomorrow.

They had were barely asleep when it was time to get up again. The sound of a thousand grackles pierced the morning air. Chris had already loaded the van and was eager to start the day. Linda had made breakfast burritos, Haddie, Vanessa, George and Chris grabbed one and headed for the van.

Chris finished his burrito as he turned down the dirt road. The other three ate as they watched the scenery pass by. The was not as busy as the day before and had a mystical quality. As the turned down an ally, a collection of shed-sized buildings came into view.

They pulled onto a weedy, dirt lot full of 12’ X 16’ largely unpainted shacks of plywood with metal roofs. Haddie was sickened by the realization these shacks were people’s homes.

The first stop was at a parakeet blue house where eight children, all under the age of twelve, were playing outside. Chris climbed out of the van and a large Mexican woman hurried over in excitement to help Chris with a box. The children ran to their mother and helped lighten the box, joyfully removing some of the contents. The whole family was ecstatic at the sight of bags of rice, beans, and powdered milk.

“Hey, guys, you’re gonna have to get out of the van to help,” Chris gently chided his helpers. The culture shock had rendered them motionless.

Haddie and Vanessa got out and each took a smaller box from the van. George hopped out walked over to a couple of the boys. He took out his Gameboy and they crowded around him in awe.

The sight of the inside of the hovel was even more shocking. It was a single room dwelling without walls, leaving the wall studs exposed. Some of the crossbeams were being used as shelves for the few knick-knacks they had. There was a large, hand-made bed in a corner. The family table was a wooden spool like those used for telephone wire. Even though it contained few possessions, a sense of love permeated the air.

The mother could not stop hugging and thanking them, calling them “angels of God.” Several times she wiped her eyes with a shredded handkerchief as she chattered on in Spanish. She sat on a plastic milk crate and opened one of the small boxes. It contained a handful of candy and five Barbie dolls of varied ethnicity. Each of her daughters triumphantly carried their new treasure out of the house, squealing with pleasure.

There was also candy in the second box, but instead of Barbies, three brightly colored dump trucks emerged. The three boys for whom these toys were meant, grabbed their prizes and went out of the home making engine and crash noises. She combined the candy from both boxes and hid it for a later time.

Chris translated her words as they walked to the van, “She says, ‘Thank you, very much. I know God loves us and thinks of even the poor ones because He has sent you to us with His gifts.’”

The children kept hugging them. The mother hugged Haddie, who felt ashamed. After finally being released from the family’s love, they continued and the scene was repeated throughout the day.

At one stop, Haddie was shocked to find two families sharing one house. They had run out of room inside for everyone, so three of the children were sleeping in the car. Haddie repented for every complaint, spoken or thought, she had made at home.

At the last house of the day, no one ran out to greet them. Chris and Haddie each carried a box as they all walked up to the door. Chris knocked, then opened the door, making Haddie uneasy. “Hola, Esme!” Chris called out as he stepped in. “It’s Chris, we have presents for you!”

Haddie looked in and saw a woman scooting on the floor towards them. She reminded Haddie of a creature from some horror movie she had seen when she was little. Haddie was quite disturbed by how dirty this woman was. Her apprehension quickly melted away as Esme smiled shyly at them. Chris placed his box on the floor and Haddie did the same. The woman gently looked at all the wonderful blessings they contained. Haddie thought she looked like a person opening a treasure chest full of gold and jewels.

“Esme,” Chris called gently and repeated it another time to get her attention. “Esme, I have another special present for you. It is a gift from a church in McAllen. What is the one thing you have been praying for since you were twelve?”

Her eyes danced with joy and tears streamed down her dusty cheeks as Chris pushed a wheelchair up to the door of her home. “Gracias mi padre, Dios!” Esme beaming with elation cried out in thanksgiving and praise. Haddie couldn’t understand everything Esme was saying, but understood this gracious lady with her heart. If Haddie had won the lottery, she could not have been happier than Esme was over her gift of mobility.

As soon as they were back in the van, George asked, “Chris, what’s wrong with her legs?”

Chris answered him matter-of-factly, “Esmerelda, or Esme for short, had an accident when she was twelve that messed up her legs.”

George pressed further, “why couldn’t the doctors fix them?”

Chris responded, ”In America, she would have had surgery and been fine. But it happened here, in Mexico, and she lost the use of her legs.”

After thinking about what Chris had said, George had another question, “How does she get to work?”

Chris quickly replied, “She can’t work, obviously, and she has no family left. So she begs.”

“How much money does she make?”

Chris laughed quietly at the boy’s curiosity, “Not much. She has been praying for fourteen years for that wheelchair.”

The paved road ended and the dirt road to Chris’s house began. George had a final thought of Esme’s blessings, “At least now she’ll be clean while she’s begging.” Haddie wanted to find a rock to crawl under, but Chris laughed hard and turned up the lane to his home.

The group walked into the dining room, where Linda had dinner waiting on the table. Haddie didn’t feel like eating but sat down out of politeness. After a couple of bites, Vanessa, who had been quiet the whole day, broke down and began to weep. Haddie, now also crying, jumped up and ran to her, throwing her arms around Vanessa.

“Vanessa, honey! I’m so sorry I have taken you for granted. I’ve been so stuck on your behavior, I haven’t even told you that I love you or that I’m thankful for you.” Haddie hugged and kissed her daughter as if she had been lost and now returned to her.

“No, Mom. I’m the one who should be sorry. I have been so selfish! I haven’t thought about what you do for us, or that you might even have wants of your own! I’ve just been a brat throwing a fit to get my way.” Vanessa hugged her mom and grabbed George. The three of them stood together holding onto each other. After several minutes, they broke loose and returned to their seats and to dinner.

The rest of the week was a blur. They got home in time to go to church Easter morning. Haddie had heard the Sermon countless times. This year, for the first time, the TRUTH of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice penetrated her heart. Haddie and Vanessa received Jesus as their Lord, as well as Savior, for the first time.

The family who went to Nuevo Progresso broken was now the path to healing and restoration. They never forgot-

WHAT? What about my friends? And swimming with the dolphins and shopping at the beach stores and all the things I wanted to do? What are you doing to me?” Vanessa’s words were as rapid as automatic gunfire and their intent as hurtful.THERE IS NOTHING GOD CAN’T FIX!

This last paragraph rocked Haddie to the core; her children didn’t appreciate anything.

Your friend,

Chris

God’s Little Flowers


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