He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul. . . .
— Psalm 23:2,3a
We have this neighborhood pond that’s more than a pond. It’s a place of unity, healing and beauty, where towering cottonwoods whisper, ‘’Blessings! Blessings!’’
It used to be an eyesore, a slime pit. This is an equestrian neighborhood, but you couldn’t ride your horse around the pond because of sinkholes. There were weeds and broken bottles, litter and bare spots.
Then came 9/11. The guys were mad. They wanted to fight terrorists. But they are middle-aged family men. How could THEY wage war?
They decided to attack . . . the pond. They would turn it into a symbol of the American way, defying those who would seek to destroy the life we’ve built here.
They met down there on weekends, with shovels, rakes and chain saws. They tore out countless volunteer trees and hauled out countless loads of dead branches.
It became a Testosterone Festival. They drained the pond, rented bulldozers, and tripled the size of it, leaving an island with trees. A guy with a chain saw on a pole “shaved off” the poison oak and dead branches. They planted new trees, too.
They engineered a well with a pump to feed fresh water down a curving streambed of river rock. Electricity followed, and a lighted fountain. A boy built a fishing bridge for an Eagle Scout project.
One guy researched fish habitats so that the pond would have the deep fissures necessary for laying eggs, and the right mix of fish.
Two teenagers were hired to maintain the pond area. Their dads taught them how to mow correctly, seed, and weed-eat. The meadow transformed into a manicured park.
We ladies got into the act, adding mulch and flowers, flagstone and even a heart-shaped piece of limestone from the old retaining wall.
Neighbors donated pretty benches with plaques in memory of lost loved ones. Another fellow made one with a horse theme in the metalwork.
It dawned on me how many needs that pond was meeting: this one had had financial setbacks; that one was beset by grief from a child’s tragic death; this one had a business partner going loco; that one’s kids were dealing him fits.
But down there, by the still waters, working alongside people we loved, we were all being refreshed and restored . . . set right.
Nowadays, you see kids and dads fishing, people exercising, lovers walking hand in hand, folks on horses, folks on bikes, folks with dogs, picnics, corporate outings, and, last night, even a wedding.
But not just any wedding. This was for the daughter of the couple who have done the most. Pond beautification efforts intensified.
One Sunday, here came the bridegroom and his friends, some neighbor kids, and many others with scrapers and brushes, to repaint the fence. A neighbor lent a boat, and people got in wetsuits to lean out from it and hack down the cattails. A special flagstone entry patio materialized in the dead grass and dirt near the street. Lots of people lent a hand.
This was to be a Christ-centered wedding, so the groom and his dad built a wooden cross. Seven men lifted it and set it in quick concrete. It was like Iwo Jima, moving and meaningful.
With a picnic, the work team put the finishing touches on everything.
Then came the wedding day. Murphy’s Law kicked in. Storms brooded all day. Tornadic activity was expected at about wedding time, 6:30 p.m. Oh, no! After all that work. . . .
The Body of Christ mobilized again, this time, with prayer.
And the wedding came off, beautifully. The only thing that got wet was the bridegroom’s cheeks as his gorgeous bride walked down the aisle.
Everybody smiled when one of the solos was about the storms of life. Mighty thunder roared as the couple took their vows.
Our Maddy, age 4, was precious as the flower girl in white tulle, with little white roses in her tucked-up hair, tossing the petals left and right.
I sat there amid the flowers and the fountain, with the wind in my face, surrounded by loved ones who had given so much for this moment, and felt myself, too, being restored . . . set right . . . renewed.
‘’You may kiss your bride,’’ the minister said.
Beside the still waters, everybody’s cup runneth over.
And the towering trees whispered, ‘’Blessings! Blessings!’’ †
By Susan Darst Williams | www.RadiantBeams.org | Marriage | © 2020