Clara showed up at the dog park a few minutes early. She’d been on her computer all morning filling out more job applications. Time was running out and something near panic welled just beneath the surface of her emotions. The fall air was crisp and it felt good to her skin as she made her way around the block and two streets over. She wished the wind could blow away all the concerns that lay heavy on her mind. She longed for a clean, fresh feeling in her soul, life felt so bleak. Her heart was slightly lifted as she passed the lights and scents lining the streets in preparation for the holidays. Clara had worn her red scarf because it was her favorite. It made the red splotches on her cheeks look a little less out of place. And, it reminded her of Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. Although this particular holiday season looked dreary, she had a “meeting” with a handsome Christian man at the park, so maybe it wouldn’t be all bad. Clara was glad for the warmth Ringo radiated as she held him close, the chill in the wind definitely showed signs of winter. “I hope it’s not too cold to stay and visit” she whispered to her furry friend as the park came into sight.
Clara opened the creaky gate and made her way to the bench and released Ringo to play. She pulled her scarf up to her chin and waited. Butterflies filled her stomach in anticipation of what this day could mean. Within a few minutes David arrived and Lulu was hot on his heels. He held two cups, one in each hand, and was smiling broadly. The strangest thought occurred to Clara, he had really nice teeth. The crimson splotches her cheeks deepened as she smiled in return. David spoke as he got closer, “I hope you like hot chocolate; I took the liberty of getting each of us a cup. The wind has a chill in it today don’t you think?” She wasn’t sure, but she thought her heart might pound out of her chest. She cleared her throat to steady her voice, “Yes, I love hot chocolate.” And she did.
The next hour went quickly, and when she couldn’t convince Ringo to stay a minute longer, she stood to leave. “I had such a nice time today,” she spoke hoping her emotions shown on her face. “Me too” David looked directly at her as he spoke. “How about a lunch date soon?” Clara was secretly thrilled at his proposition, but tried to appear cool and collected. “Umm…sure, when and where?” She said as they walked toward the gate. “How about I text you some ideas and times?” “Okay!” She responded a little too quickly. Clara looked at Ringo and pretended to be distracted as her cheeks burned with embarrassment. Then, because she couldn’t contain her enthusiasm a moment longer, she rattled off her number without even being asked.
The walk back to her apartment felt better than it had in many days. Clara felt especially friendly, she waved or spoke to passersby nearly missing her phone ring. She’d put her number on job applications and didn’t want to miss a single call, you know, just in case. It was Laura. For a brief moment she wanted to answer and tell her all about David and their meetings at the dog park. She wanted to lament about her joblessness and how futile it had been to fill out so many applications. But, instead, for reasons she still couldn’t explain, she let the phone fall back into her bag and continued walking. Her pleasant mood shifted and sorrow crept in clenching her throat. She had no idea why she was giving Laura the silent treatment, and a tinge of conviction pressed against her heart. She reminds me of all I’ve lost, she defended herself. Her heart and mind battled much like the rhythm of her feet on the pavement. Back and forth. Back- she missed her friend. And forth- she couldn’t cope with the pain Laura’s presence would surely uncover. Back and forth until Clara began to hum a Christmas song. She hoped the cheery melody would settle her thoughts to match the mood of her red scarf.
David had a bounce in his step the whole way back to his apartment. He kept imagining her deep brown eyes and that cute red scarf. He was pretty sure he was smitten. There was only a small bit of disappointment and it was his own fault. He’d promised himself to ask Clara if she knew Jesus, but at the last minute he’d chickened out. He would tell anyone who asked that Jesus was the best thing to ever happen in his life. The trouble with Clara was she hadn’t asked and he wasn’t sure how to phrase the question. He’d mentioned God more than once but she seemed to shy away from conversation about her faith. Lord, I sure hope she knows you, or wants to, because I’m going to be pretty disappointed if she doesn’t. The thought was a quick one and he didn’t hold onto it. David turned his attention to their promised lunch date and smiled. His heart skipped a beat at the thought.
Laura arrived at her destination with windblown hair and a growling stomach. It was her lunch hour and she didn’t have much time. She stopped in front of the tall building, looked up to make sure it was the right one, then rushed through the door, grateful for a reprieve from the wind. She attempted to tame her unruly hair as she surveyed the lobby. There, she thought, as she headed for the door with a faded “Office” sign. She pulled her scarf away from her face as she crossed the dated lobby. It was sparsely furnished with orange and green vinyl chairs and a TV blaring reruns of “I Dream of Jeannie.” It felt like she’d stepped back in time. Laura turned the door knob gently and it made a scraping sound like metal on metal. So much for being discreet, she thought. A young blonde sitting behind a white painted desk looked up, “Can I help you?” “Is your manager here?” Laura spoke softly. She hoped the answer was yes, she needed to talk to someone and quickly. Time was ticking.
Clara opened the plain brown door to her small apartment. She set Ringo down and began unwinding the scarf from around her neck. Today didn’t feel real. Her mind kept replaying conversations from the bench at the dog park. She felt weak-kneed at the irony of it all. Jobless. Could soon be homeless. But, totally smitten. She opened the small coat closet and absentmindedly hung her jacket and scarf. As she closed the door she caught sight of the “power hour” chair. Memories of conversations she’d had on her knees stung her heart. She wanted to tell the Lord all about her new friendship, she missed their daily time together. But, because hurt had morphed into pride, she turned toward the kitchen to whip up something edible. The cupboards were pretty bare these days, but a lack of meal options wasn’t going to dim her mood. Nope. She’d just sit and relive every moment of her time with David and Lulu. That would fill her more than food ever could. She couldn’t wait for their lunch date. “Wait.” At that very moment it occurred to her, how would she pay for a lunch? Funds were so low. She could order water and maybe a side salad. “Ugh! I need a job!” She blurted out into the empty apartment. Ringo came over and stood at her feet. Clara picked him up and plopped on the couch. She heard a spring pop under the worn cushion as she landed, too weak to carry its burden any longer. “Good grief,” she moaned and closed her eyes. “I feel just like that broken spring, it’s all too heavy, buddy.” She stroked Ringo’s back as she spoke and he licked her face in response.
She felt desperate for help.
Then she did the most natural yet, as of late, foreign thing.
“For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:11-12