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By Helena Smrcek

Picture 1

My gardens never looked as unkept as now. Here is why.

Bad weather prevented me from prepping the yard before our overseas trip at the end of April, although I did manage to plant potatoes and onions.

The last day of our stay, we visited my niece and her children. There her three-year-old drank through my straw. I thought nothing of it. Two days later I got a message that the little girl was in the emergency room with fever and sore throat.

I fought the germs. And I was winning, that is until a writers’ conference in North Carolina. I shared a room and the air-conditioning unit with Ann, a dear friend from Texas Sleeping in a fridge doesn’t agree with me. By day two, I knew I would pay for this. The flu bug finished me off 24-hours after I got home. I spent three days sleeping on my Lazy-Boy, unable to get up.

My darling husband moved to the guest room, heated soup for me, once, then made himself scares, so he wouldn’t catch it. His golfing trip was coming up. Two weeks later I was still wrestling with the stubborn sinus’ cold.

Preparing for yet another conference, I requested a single room. A day before my departure, a friend called with a devastating news. Her marriage fell into a desperate crisis. Talking and texting till early morning hours, trying to make sense of the situation, I struggled to focus on my tasks. Thankfully, I was surrounded by Christian writers, many of them my dear friends. Without disclosing the details, I asked for prayers.

The four-day headache didn’t miraculously vanish, but knowing that others were asking God for help, gave me courage and strength to go on and support my sister in Christ.

But life never keeps still. The last day of June. April, our goat, gave birth to little Carmen. Next day the new mom stopped eating, didn’t drink, didn’t care to get up and feed the baby. I reached out to my goat-expert Emily. At 10:30 p.m. she offered to drive over, her three-under-five kids finally in bed.

My daughter and I made an emergency run to the drugstore and with thanks assured her that we would do all that she said, and if things wouldn’t improve by the morning, we would let her know.

Trying to milk April proved an ordeal. She put up a fight. A week into our struggle, my husband made me a proper milking stand. I was delighted. April was not. Getting her on was mission impossible.

Then a couple of our long-time friends came up for a visit. Hana received a frightening diagnosis. We held back tears and prayed. Two days later, in pain, she went to an emergency department. Yes, she would require surgery, but the findings were not of the malignant type.

In the meantime, the daily calls and texts with my marriage-in-crisis-friend continued. I prayed to God to redeem my time, as everything around me visibly suffered from neglect. Then my sister-in-law called, with a problem of her own, but asked me how I was doing amid all this.

It made me think. Was it time to ask for help? Sarah, a writer friend, and her sister came to my rescue, and the garden started to look a bit better.

Feeling somewhat encouraged, I continued my daily fights with April, as she didn’t think milking was meant for her. Our fifty broiler chicks arrived. Farmer Mike offered to drop of the pig. Farmer Colin delivered the steer. The ducklings hatched, then the turkeys. Mama-hen hatched 13. A skunk was robbing the eggs and attacking our cats. The three surviving beehives needed attention. Our dog was due in a couple of weeks. Chees making was put on hold—the pig feasting on sour milk for days.

The new book proposal and the edits to my latest novel had to wait. And then I volunteered to co-direct the next writers’ conference. I had to write a report for the board of directors and start planning the event. But that is my other life.

And then April pulled my back.

I could lay down on a hard massage table or stand. My two options, as my body seemed to forget how to sit without experiencing excruciating pain.

Two weeks into my back issues, still trying to do my best to help my friend in marriage crisis, my life came to a halt, as the perennials got lost in weeds and the vegetable garden drowned in the same.

I reached my limit and started to fall apart.

Then Iva brought two teens to salvage the yard. Christine took over the barn, including the stubborn April. Peter cleaned up the messy stalls. Sheena came on Saturday for an emergency clean and rescued our home. My husband brought me yellow roses. Dr. Wang skipped her lunch to give me an acupuncture treatment. She also ordered me to do nothing for a week. Yeah, right.

Kate came up to help clean the garage. A writer’s group friend called and offered encouragement. Another one texted. Everyone agreed to postpone our writers’ group by a week so I could participate. I’m sure many had prayed, even without me asking. When I persisted that I could do at least some yard work, yet another friend message me, stating the obvious. You hurt for a reason. Rest.

Doing things for others comes easy to many of us. Doing nothing is a trial. When I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself, accepted that store-bought vegetables are an okay substitute for home-grown produce, and that not all had to be done my way, as long as it got done, I started to relax.

As I lay uncomfortable on the massage table, looking up at the ceiling, I wondered how do those without faith, and Christian friends cope with life’s difficult situations.

Even though as believers, we often treat prayer as our last resort, we do know that God is always there. At times we even forget to ask, yet He sends others to prop us up when we feel the weakest. What comfort that brings to my soul is hard to express. The only thing left to say is thank you.

About the author

Picture 4 Helena Smrcek, a journalist, author, and screenplay writer, believes in the power of a well-told story. Her readers can expect a captivating page-turner, filled with thrilling suspense, and heartwarming romance.

She started in publishing as a high school student, freelancing for her local newspaper. Her journalism carrier took off in 1999. Within three years Helena accumulated over 100 by-lines and interviewed Ann Graham Lotz, Carol Lewis, Cec Murphey, Kelita and others. Her stories, many of them covers, have been published in Canada, USA, Bermuda, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2002 she accepted a position at Listen Up TV, a current affairs program.

Helena became a founding member of Write!Canada, and The Word Guild, a Canadian national association of writers and editors. She is a graduate of Jerry Jenkin’s Craftsman Class, Act One, Donald Maass’ Fire in Fiction, Writer’s Police Academy, and several mentoring programs.

She regularly attends writers’ conferences and is a past or current member of such organizations as Word Weavers, American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, Toast Masters International, Boni, The Writer’s Guild, and others. Helena loves to participate in NaNoWriMo and hosts a writers’ group.

As an entrepreneur, she is familiar with marketing, branding, and social media. She has volunteered with YMCA, mentoring new Canadians pursuing their business dreams, and was an active member of her local Chamber of Commerce.

When not at her keyboard, Helena loves listening to audio books. Working on her hobby farm, and traveling. She lives in the Waterloo Region, Ontario, with her husband, two adult children, two dogs, several cats, and her favorite goat, Rosie.