Remember the time the Christmas before last when the kids and I handed out candy canes? We had so much fun that time that we meant to make it an annual tradition, but somehow we never got around to it this past Christmas. I thought of it again last Tuesday night, after a woman named Phyllis knocked on our door.
I was frantically trying to finish my fish tacos and get the kitchen cleaned up before Bible study, and I figured it must be Gentle arriving early to pick me up. When I saw the kind blonde stranger on the porch, I felt momentary relief, but when she held out a flyer my stomach sank. Ugh. A door-to-door salesperson. I don't have time for this!
"I'm starting a morning prayer meeting in my home, and I'd love it if you could come," she said with a warm smile.
I took the flyer and smiled back at her. But I frowned when I saw the time: 6:00 in the morning!
"I made it early so people could come before work," she explained. "You can come and stay for a few minutes, or for the whole hour."
Gesturing to Allyson, who was clinging to my leg, I told her I didn't think I could make it that early.
"Well, I take requests," she said, pointing out her phone number on the flyer. "If you have any prayer needs, please let me know."
I thanked her and went back to frying the tilapia with a grin on my face. I'd just been asking God to help me relax and rest in His presence, to make me ready for Bible study, and then He sent Phyllis. My spirits were instantly lifted.
I couldn't stop thinking about her for two days. I was amazed at her boldness, to knock on a stranger's door and invite her to a prayer meeting! I wondered how many people were meeting in her home each morning. What if no one came? Maybe I...? No, it was way too early in the morning.
Then I remembered Priscilla Shirer's admonition on the videos at the Jonah Bible study. She urges us to "go to the Nineveh in our neighborhood," to show God's love to people who need Him. Hadn't I been asking God to show me how to love the people in my neighborhood?
I phoned Phyllis on Thursday to tell her I'd come at 6:30 on Friday morning, and she was ecstatic. She told me she'd handed out 30 flyers that Tuesday. "On Wednesday morning, I told God how disappointed I was that it was only me," she admitted. "But then He said, 'You're not alone. I'm here. Jesus is here. The Holy Spirit is here. That makes four of us.'"
In the morning darkness on Friday, I walked to her house, about eight houses down. We prayed for our neighborhood, and for our families. I loved the instant connection we felt as sisters in Christ. I told her I'd come back on Mondays and Fridays.
The way Phyllis had reached out to me brought to mind the candy canes, and I started thinking about what we might do for Valentines Day. On that same Tuesday, Gentle had given us a treat bag with a card that said, "We love because He first loved us." She said she was handing out bags to her neighbors.
So today I baked triple ginger cookies and filled six Ziploc bags with six cookies each. I took six of Allyson's leftover Valentines and wrote, "We love because He first loved us... The Broad Family... Bill, Sarah, Ethan & Allyson."
Allyson was of course excited to come; the candy canes back in 2009 had been her idea. I wasn't too sure about Ethan, but he agreed readily. When Allyson invited Bill, though, he said, "I think I'll stay here and clean the kitchen."
By the time everything was ready, it was nearly 8:00 and getting dark. We slipped on our flip-flops, and I put on a light jacket despite the unseasonably warm temperature today--in the 70s this afternoon after last week's dip into the teens.
We followed the same route we'd covered with the candy canes, so it wasn't so scary as the first time. Allyson rang the bell when we got to the house of the family who gave us the pumpkin pie. The moment the door swung open, she whispered, "Happy Valentines Day," and handed the man the cookies.
"Oh, you guys are so good to us always!" he exclaimed.
I blushed. "They're ginger snaps," was all I could think of to say.
"Well Happy Valentines Day!" he said.
The door was already half closed when I asked, "Is Elizabeth home?"
"Yes, she's right here," he said, pointing to the dining room table. I realized that once again I'd interrupted their dinner, but I plowed on, telling her about Phyllis's prayer meeting.
Apologizing for being in her pajamas, Elizabeth nevertheless came to the door with a tablet in hand. I told her the address and the time, as well as my phone number. She thanked me warmly and we wished them a good evening.
We had one more house left, an addition to last year's list. I wanted to take some cookies to Phyllis even though I knew I'd be seeing her at 6:30 in the morning. I wanted the kids to meet her, and I wasn't ready for our little adventure to end yet.
Her house was brightly lit, and there were two cars in the driveway. "She's home!" I said. "Now, Allyson, this time you need to say 'Happy Valentines Day' really loud, okay?"
Allyson rang the bell, and we waited for what seemed a long time. "She's probably looking out at us and not opening the door," Ethan said.
"No, she wouldn't do that," I argued. I knocked on the door, and Allyson did too. A moment later the door opened, and we were face to face with a strange man who looked to be in his 30s or 40s. Phyllis had told me she lived alone with her son, but this man seemed too old. For a moment I thought I might have the wrong house, but this was definitely it.
The man cocked his head and eyed us in confusion. Oblivious to the awkward silence, Allyson handed him the bag, shouting, "Happy Valentines Day!" He glanced down at the cookies, and there was another heavy silence. Then he sputtered, "Well, thank you so much!"
"You're welcome," I murmured. "Um, good night."
Back on the sidewalk, Ethan asked why I didn't tell him we were looking for Phyllis. "I was expecting her to answer the door," I said. "I was so surprised to see him that I just froze. I couldn't even remember Phyllis's name at that moment."
"Well, you should call her or something," he said. "He's probably telling her right now that some crazy lady is going around the neighborhood handing out cookies."
I burst into laughter. "Yes, he probably is," I choked out. "Oh well." And we laughed all the way home, just like we did when we handed out the candy canes. When we told Bill the story, he just shook his head.
I'll tell her in the morning. It was only a matter of time before she figured it out, anyway: yes, I am a crazy lady. It sure is fun!