Her car had broken down with the supplies she needed to serve the brunch.
Wildflowers as tall as wild grass dotted the countryside. Fortunately I hadn’t seen another car—or house—for miles, so I admired Massachusetts’ rolling meadows without distraction.
I had just enough time to get to the Christian coffee house, where I was helping make a Father’s Day brunch. It wouldn’t happen without the supplies piled into my white Ford Galaxie: sausage, bacon and croissants, paper plates, cups and favors for the dads.
It might have seemed odd for me to be the key player in a celebration of fatherhood. My father left our home when I was very young. But I understood what it meant to the others who would come. With six older brothers I’d had no shortage of male influences in my life.
They were nothing like a dad, of course, but I’d learned a lot from them, like how to play basketball and the basics of caring for a car. And it was my brothers who had introduced me to the coffee house. Driving past a small pond, sunlight glistening on the water, I remembered how they used to talk about it.
“You are like part of a family there,” my brother Brent said.
“You know God is with you,” my brother Cliff said. “Somehow He feels close to me there.”
“He’s always with you, Valerie,” Brent added. “He’ll always be there for you.”
As always, I wanted to follow their lead, but faith didn’t come as easy for me as it seemed to come to them. It wasn’t that I’d never heard God calling me. I just couldn’t bring myself to take that step, couldn’t trust that he would always be there. It seemed too good to be true. Better to rely on myself and the things my brothers had taught me.
But in a weak moment I agreed to tag along to the coffee house. Speeding down the road now, I remembered walking in the door that first time. Huge wooden spools—for electrical wire—served as tables, covered with cloth to spruce them up. There must have been 20 in the open room. A man strummed a guitar. Posters proclaimed “Jesus Loves You.”
I had coffee and cookies, and talked to a young woman not yet 20, like me. She was so friendly, telling me about God’s presence in her life, like she was talking about an actual father.
That night I kept thinking about the relationship she described. It had sounded so wonderful, like nothing I’d ever experienced. I found myself making the 30-minute trip to the coffee house often after that, whether my brothers were going or not. I couldn’t get enough of people’s stories. I longed to know God the way they experienced Him. I just wasn’t sure I ever would.
The supplies in the back slid a little as the Galaxie climbed a hill. At the crest, the Galaxie…died. The rumbling engine just quit with no warning. I coasted to the side of the road, puzzled.
I checked my watch. I was a good 20 minutes from the coffee house. I turned the ignition key, saying a quick prayer. Please, God. Help start the car. Silence. It was a blanketing quiet. I was all alone.
Thanks, I thought. The one time I called on Him, God was nowhere to be found. If you need something done... I pushed open the door and got out to lift the hood. The battery connections looked good. The spark plugs were tight. No broken belts or burst hoses. It was a mystery.
I scanned the open countryside. Of course there were no people in any direction. No cars either headed my way. Far in the distance I could see an old, obviously abandoned, manufacturing building. Other than that—nothing. The woodland seemed desolate, frightening. This was long before cell phones. I was on my own.
I lowered the hood, got back into the car and laid my head against the steering wheel for what seemed like hours. I was afraid to look at my watch. The brunch would have to be canceled. Could you really count on anything in this world?
The faintest sound—like the tinkling of a tambourine—caught my ear. I glanced at the radio, but it was turned off. The sound got louder. I rolled down the window. Music filled the air.
From over a small incline came maybe a dozen children dressed in their Sunday best, the girls wearing beautiful, pastel-colored dresses. They were singing, their voices angelic, accompanied by tambourines and bells. They carried bright bouquets, as vibrant as rainbows. The flowers were like none I’d ever seen before. One of the children laughed as they passed by, a sound so joyful I couldn’t help but smile.
I turned my head to see where they were going. A man stood by the car. He was tall and wearing neat jeans and a button-down shirt. The children continued on carefree, as if they knew the man was watching over them, like a father. I wanted to feel their trust, but also knew to be wary of strangers.
“Can I help you?” the man asked. His voice was beautiful, like a running stream, familiar, comforting. I told him about the car, how I needed to be at the coffee house.
He disappeared around the front of the car. “Try it again,” he said.
Here goes nothing, I thought. I turned the key. The engine rumbled. Unbelievable! I didn’t know what the man had done, but I immediately jumped out to thank him. He was gone, the children too. I scanned the horizon. They couldn’t have gotten far. But they were nowhere to be seen.
I climbed back in the car and looked at my watch. No time seemed to have passed. I must have fallen asleep, been dreaming, at least daydreaming. I glanced over at the passenger seat and that’s when I saw it: a single flower, like a Black-Eyed Susan, only with petals as colorful as a rainbow. I knew then, with complete certainty, that God had sent a team of angels to my aid.
The brunch went off without a hitch. But I couldn’t help feeling that I was the guest of honor. After all, I had a Father in heaven I could count on. Just like my brothers.
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