I removed some old topsoil with roots from past flowers and then began attempting to dig the two holes for the bushes. Only then did I remember that the last time I planted bushes, I had the help of a strong friend. Today, it was just me, and I quickly fell into conversation with God about how my "womanpower" wasn't going to be enough since my house was apparently built on a caliche pit. I knew that if I called in some "manpower," it was going to cost me. After all, landscaping isn't cheap hourly labor.
So, I took a break for a bit. I went back to the flower bed that now had new soil, planted the 18 vinca pots, watered them, put out new mulch, and watered it some more. Voila!
Then, I brought two houseplants outside and repotted them.
Finished with all my other planting, I returned to the dreaded hole digging. After I used the shovel to make the holes about 4 inches deep, which took lots of strength and sweat equity, I decided to use a hand-held spade to do the rest of the work. I had plenty of time to tell God how hard digging is and how thankful I am that I don't have to do it for my full-time occupation. Eventually, I created this (trust me, it is deeper and harder than it looks):
I got the bushes into their new homes (or holes) and was putting some new dirt around them and thanking God that I was almost done when I heard, "Ma'am. Ma'am." I turned around and saw that a man had parked his car in front of my house and was now approaching me.
He thrust out his hand while simultaneously telling me that his name is Karl and the name of the street he lives on, which is apparently nearby. He forced me to shake his hand with my dirty, splintery garden glove. He said that he needed $5 for gas to get to his wife who is in the hospital. He asked if he could finish the planting. I informed him that I was done. He saw the bag of mulch and asked if he could put that out in return for money. I told him that I could do that. He next asked if he could mow my yard, and I answered that he could not. He finally asked if there was anything he could do around my house for money, and I politely told him that I didn't need anything done but that maybe one of the neighbors could use his help. At that, he promptly returned to his car and sped away.
It was that last little action that creeped me out. If he needed gas money so badly, why was he burning up what little gas he had by flooring it as he sped away from my house? I immediately got the "huz," packed up my gardening tools, and came inside.
Thoughts began to race through my head about what he really wanted. Was he trying to get me to come inside my house so that he could attempt to follow me in? Was he high on drugs and needed money for more because the fix was about to wear off? Would he come back?
After talking with a friend and praying about the situation, I didn't immediately have relief. But eventually, I started to sense that I was supposed to endure and see all those events not with fearful eyes, but with grateful eyes. Eyes that recognize that there was a hedge of Protection around me. One that neither ADT nor the neighborhood watch group provided.
I don't think I would have been practicing gratefulness in response to such a situation had I not just read (the night before) a section about it. In the book Satisfy My Thirsty Soul, which my small group continues to work through, Linda Dillow retold a diary entry from Matthew Henry who does Bible commentary. After being robbed, Henry wrote the following: "Let me be thankful. First, because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my wallet, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not worth much. Fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed."
In that same vein, I am thankful that all of the work was done when the man arrived so that there wasn't anything for him to do. I am thankful that he did not try to harm me. I am thankful that I was calm throughout the whole conversation and that I didn't give off any indications that I was insecure. I am thankful that it was he, and not I, who was asking for $5.
I also think that today's encounter was just a glimpse of what God does multiple times for me every day. I'm convinced that God provides me with so much protection on a daily basis, but I seldom see it. Not that I'm complaining about not being privy to all those almost-encounters that He saved me from. But today's up-close-and-personal encounter should last me for quite a while.