Grace Notes, by Nancy Kennedy

Years ago, we had a neighbor, Sandy, who moved into the house around the bend from ours.

She and her husband and two kids moved to Florida from New Jersey where her husband had struggled with a drug addiction — and a girlfriend.

They came to make a new start, which only lasted a few weeks. Sandy’s husband decided he wasn’t ready to give up his girlfriend and moved back to New Jersey.

For the next two years Sandy did her best raising two small children, working part time and going to school. On top of the stress of her marriage and being thousands of miles away from her own family, Sandy’s son had behavioral problems. Every moment was a continual emotional roller coaster for her.

She continued to hold out hope that God would restore her marriage, that her husband would get free of the drugs and leave the girlfriend. But some days she was at rock bottom.

Such was the day the divorce papers came in the mail. Just a few days before, her dog had died from a snake bite; she had a pile of bills she didn’t know how she would pay; her son’s behavior was getting worse; and now the man she still loved didn’t love her any more.

Feeling utterly out of control, Sandy decided to mow her lawn. She later told me that it was the one thing in her world that she felt she could do.

However, her lawn mower refused to start.

Determined to do this one thing, she fiddled with the knobs for a while, but nothing happened.

That’s when she snapped.

She began screaming and cursing at God, throwing herself on her overgrown lawn and wailing.

“Where are you, God?!” she demanded. “You said you would take care of me! You said you’d be my help!. I need you — where are you?!”

Have you been there? Maybe not in that same situation — your dog didn’t die and your spouse hasn’t left. But if you’re human, then you either have reached or will one day reach a point of utter helplessness and desperation when it seems as if God is cruelly withholding his help.

A few weeks ago I prayed with a woman who was overwhelmed with family problems — sickness and waywardness and serious drug addiction. Plus, her neck hurt.

As she cried I hugged her and just said, “Oh, Jesus,” because there really were no other words.

I told her what I always tell people and tell myself when things look so utterly bleak.

“When you cry out, ‘God, where are you?! Why won’t you do something?!’ Maybe God’s answer is: ‘I’m right here, and I am doing something that you can’t see — and I’m not done doing it.’ ”

I think the woman felt better. I hope she did. God isn’t cruel, even if it looks like it sometimes.

Back to Sandy. As she lay crying on her grass, an old guy on a tractor lawn mower rounded the bend and stopped to ask if she needed help.

Wiping her drippy nose with her dirty arm, all Sandy could do was nod.

The man got her lawn mower started, then sent her inside to take a shower and he mowed her grass for her.

Later, when Sandy told me about it, I told her that the old guy was God — God coming to her aid, disguised as an old man riding a tractor lawn mower.

I love that story. It was a turning point for Sandy, although her circumstances didn’t change right away. She still got divorced and her son still had behavior problems. She still had trouble paying her bills and she still lived far from her mother and sisters in New Jersey.

Eventually, Sandy remarried and moved away, and I haven’t seen her in more than 10 years.

But I still remember her and her utter desperation and the day God rode around the bend on a tractor lawn mower to rescue her.

Not changing her circumstances, but changing her perspective, strengthening her faith and increasing her hope.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t do that for you, too.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

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