Kneeling beside the bed, Mary Elizabeth folded the letter and prayed, the solemn “amen” punctuating her plea for wisdom. Her calloused hands brushed over the quilt Clara had embroidered with daisies and Mary Elizabeth remembered how her niece, Ruth, clung to it for comfort after her mother died.
“Darling, do not be afraid. I will be here for you.” Mary Elizabeth would whisper through Ruth’s nightly sobs.
Mary Elizabeth stood, straightened her dress and apron, and strode outside to the barn. The morning chill enveloped her while she milked the cow and fed the horse, but her concentration centered on the letter.
For the last two weeks, she had earnestly prayed over that piece of paper. Just when her life had become secure again, Doctor Ellison’s simple script had thrown her into a tornado of uncertainty.
Unexpected. Unsolicited. The letter arrived the day her brother-in-law, William, took his children Ruth and Charles to visit their maternal grandparents. After leaving them at the train station, Mary Elizabeth stopped at the general store to buy flour and salt. She made her purchase and the storekeeper gave her the letter.
“An offer of employment in the newly constructed hospital in Greenfield. Adequate monetary compensation and residence in the nurses’ boardinghouse.”
Before marriage, Mary Elizabeth had worked as a nurse in a field hospital during the War Between the States. After she abruptly became a young widow, she often contemplated seeking employment again. The letter requested her to submit a reply within the month. On her return trip home, the wagon crossed the bridge over the river.
Has it been a year since I stood here and tried to end my life? Before she could make a fatal decision that night, her brother arrived with a message that William’s wife, Clara, was gravely ill following childbirth. Returning home that night, she knelt beside the bed, and promised to depend on God and trust Him to direct her life and future.
Ruth and Charles filled Mary Elizabeth’s once empty days with joy. Watching them grow lessened the grief at the loss of her own child who had drowned along with her husband in a wagon accident two years earlier. She stopped weeding the vegetable patch for a moment and wiped her perspiring face with her apron. She knew time was running out and her reply needed to be written.
After supper, she walked down to the river to think. She sat under an elm tree and absently pulled the petals off a white daisy beside her. At Clara’s burial, the mourners brought daisies. The scattered petals reminded Mary Elizabeth of her graveside promise to William.
“Do not fret over the children. I will help you care for them.” William’s grief-stained face suddenly had a shadow of hope.
As the sky darkened, she strolled home and prayed. “Heavenly Father, what do I do? Why have you presented me with this job offer? You know how much I enjoyed being a nurse and how I have always wanted to leave the farm and return to the city. You also know the promise I made to William. How do I make this decision?” Her words floated on dusk’s gentle breeze.
Once inside, she filled the lamp on the table and settled down to read the Bible. Picking up the book, Mary Elizabeth saw a letter tucked between the pages.
At the marked place, her eyes fell upon this passage, “And now, LORD, thou art God, and hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever: for thou blessest, O LORD, and it shall be blessed for ever.”*
She unfolded the letter and saw William’s simple scrawl.
“I am grateful for all you are doing to help us.”
She smiled, fetched paper and pen, and composed a letter of refusal to the hospital administration. Afterwards, she took the letter she had received from the hospital and threw it into the fireplace.
Kneeling beside her bed, she prayed.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me of the promises I have made to my family.” The confident “amen” lingered in the room as she crawled underneath Clara’s quilt and drifted off to sleep.
*1 Chronicles 17:26-27 KJV
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