SPRING!

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           Samantha pushed the stroller as she walked to the park. It was a bright and beautiful Saturday morning, the sun was out already and the flowers were blooming. Spring was undoubtedly Sam’s best time of the year. The weather was perfect and the flowers bloomed. Sam sighed. “What was better than this?”
        As she got closer to a bench, Sam checked the stroller. She smiled. Laurel was sleeping peacefully. She had given her her bottle before they headed out. She must have slept on the way. Laurel meant the whole world to Sam. She had stayed home to cater for Laurel the best part of five months. Finally she was ready to start working.
           Actually she had responded to some advertisement for employment in the paper last week. This week had been so full of activities, she was once again thankful for some time alone for herself and her daughter. She had gone for a few interviews while she registered Laurel in a nursery in close proximity to her house.
          Sam had decided to work in a facility for abused children. She was a psychologist and her skills came in quite handy for those kids. She was really excited about resuming on Monday. Sam had never been able to understand how people could hurt innocent children. It was so horrible to even think about. She bent and kissed Laurel on her forehead while she slept, silently praying Laurel grew to be a strong, happy woman.
          Sam liked the smell and feel of the park early in the morning when there was pure quiet. The quietness and stillness permeated her being and calmed her enough to reflect and talk to God.
        Sam wiped a slightly damp bench and lowered herself on it. She gripped the stroller tightly as she closed her eyes. She had come to the park this morning to talk to God. She needed direction. She knew God wanted her to help those kids but she didn’t want to rely alone on her professional skills. Only God could completely heal a person’s emotional scars.
           As she talked to God she felt something move in front of her. Sam sprang her eyes open and saw a young lady looking at her uncertainly. Her stature was petite and she had long golden hair and green eyes. She was so lost in her troubled thoughts, she didn’t even notice the object of her attention was now studying her.
       Sam cleared her throat louder than was necessary. The lady snapped out of her thoughts and was already backing away when Sam smiled and waved. The lady looked confused and uncertain for a moment before walking closer to Sam. Sam smiled brightly. “Hi, what’s your name?”
The lady shifted her weight from one leg to the other before finally answering, “Noelle.”
Sam patted the bench beside her and Noelle complied. “Hi Noelle, my name is Samantha and this”….. She pointed to the sleeping child in the stroller….”is my daughter, Laurel.”
Noelle peered into the stroller and gasped, “Wow, you have a beautiful daughter Samantha.”
Sam smiled. “Thank you Noelle. You can call me Sam.”
Noelle nodded but she still had the wariness in her eyes.
Sam leaned an inch closer. “What’s wrong Noelle?”
Noelle stared at her disbelievingly. “How do you know something’s wrong?”
Sam smiled her easy smile. “Call it instinct.”
Noelle still looked uncertain. Sam gripped her hand loosely. “You can tell me Noelle.”
Noelle relaxed a little. “Don’t be offended Sam but aren’t you taking this God thing a little more seriously than is necessary or even worth it?”
Sam smiled. She hadn’t expected this but she welcomed it.
Noelle continued, more relaxed now noting that Sam wasn’t offended. “I work in the local library across from here. I usually see you here on my way to work. You are always reading that big book, I guess it’s the Bible. And l see you praying like you were doing a few minutes ago. I just think it’s crazy that you take the Jesus thing too seriously.”
Sam smiled thoughtfully. “Well I don’t know, but Christ took me pretty seriously when He died for me on the cross.”
Noelle stuttered… “You…actually…believe…that?”
Sam smiled. “Absolutely.”
Noelle linked her fingers. “I don’t know Sam. I need something big to happen before I believe – a sign or proof.”
Sam checked Laurel. She was stirring. She looked around then rested her gaze on Noelle.
“Look around you Noelle. The earth revolves around the sun everyday, women give birth to babies through a tiny hole. The earth is the right temperature – not too hot or cold.” Sam paused to catch her breath then continued.
“God is not going to just fly in front of you, Noelle. The God walk is a faith walk.”
Noelle sighed. “I don’t know Sam.”
Sam held her hand and looked at her squarely. “Sometimes people spend their lives looking for something that is staring at them in the face.”
Noelle struggled between acceptance and defiance. Defiance won.
“Okay, even if you’re right I can’t just drop everything I believe in for God and something I can’t see.”
“Really?” Sam challenged softly. “I think a lot of people do that everyday. They sacrifice everything for money, a good job, an exam or a vacation.”
Noelle shrugged. “Yeah, but at least we see those.”
Sam raised an eyebrow. “And you can’t see God? Really? I don’t think so.” Sam closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.
“We see God everywhere Noelle. We see God in the things He created.”
Just then Laurel’s eyes fluttered opened and she yawned. Sam lifted her from the stroller and hugged her, loving her precious baby scent.
Noelle stared at mother and daughter and said, “I understand why it’s so easy for you. You have it all – a husband, a daughter, you probably don’t even need to work. Your life is just perfect.”
Sam smiled. “Laurel’s dad died two months ago in a car accident. It wasn’t easy, the grief was unbearable but Jesus was with me. Still is.”
“I’m truly sorry Sam.” Noelle said apologetically.
Sam put Laurel in the stroller, adjusted her comfortably and reached out to hold hold Noelle’s hand. “My life isn’t picture perfect. Actually no one has a perfect life. The struggle is real, the grief is real, the pain is real, as well as the love, friendship and family. Jesus won’t make your struggles disappear. He’ll do better! Jesus will be with you through your struggles. That way you’ll learn and become better.”
Sam released her hand, rested on the bench and smiled. “The choice is yours, Noelle.”

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