“Bruno,” Jake whispered in baritone as he stomped through the wilted tulips approaching the tool shed, “over here.” Jake leaned over in the shadows to stuff his ragged jeans and jacket pockets full of expensive tools. His long whiskers were visible in the moonlight.
“I’ll take that,” Bruno remarked quietly, “and this, too,” he added with a chuckle, grabbing the leaf blower under one arm and the edger under the other.
“Shh—what’s that?” Jake asked on edge, freezing suddenly. Bruno paused and turned around.
“Just an ambulance, stupid,” Bruno whispered with bravado. “Let’s get outta here.” Arms full, Bruno marched over the neglected garden and awkwardly hoisted himself over the four-foot fence which, although intact, had several areas in need of repair. Jake soon followed behind.

“Oh, snap,” she startled as the sunlight spilled through the curtains. She checked the time on the alarm clock, “I’m late!” Rolling out of bed, Mary rubbed her eyes and frantically exchanged her nightgown for a skirt and blouse still lying on the arm-chair from the day before. She wiggled her warm feet into her sandals while running her fingers through her tousled auburn bob. Grabbing her purse on the kitchen stool, she fondled for her keys and exited the back door.

A garden shed

As she began reversing down the long driveway, the alarming sight of the open tool shed in the backyard grabbed her attention. She braked suddenly. The shed door had somehow swung wide open during the night. But how could it have if it was pad locked? She pondered suspiciously, realizing the serious nature of the situation. Pulling back up the driveway, she phoned Kate to explain the strange circumstances and take a rain check on their coffee date.

After inspecting the contents of the shed and the lack of tools and equipment therein, Mary stood frozen and shocked. She hurried back to her car to fumble in her handbag for her cell phone to call the police.

Officer Haley appeared about ten minutes later pulling up the driveway. He proceeded to question her at length and carefully examine the shed and broken lock. He proceeded to complete the paperwork on his clipboard while intermittent, static-filled conversations from his radio filled the air. He paused and explained to Mary that her pad lock had been popped with a special tool that crooks use. He furthered that he would file the report, but advised her to keep her valuables inside the house.

“But this is my property,” Mary insisted. “They can’t just trespass and get away with it!”

“We’ll do all we can, Mam,” the officer stated matter-of-factly, “but you’re the only one who can prevent further loss.” She put her hands on her hips in indignation at the injustice.

”We’ll be in touch with any updates,” he concluded. “Have a nice day.”

Break-ins in the area Mary had known on rare occasion, but her loop of the neighborhood had never been disturbed, much less burglarized. And from what Officer Haley said, she had quite the challenge in front of her. Major changes would be necessary if she wanted her territory back. Evaluating her mindset, she steeped in her violated state thinking long and hard about what to do.

Mary arrived at the county pound that morning with resolve. The first employee she met she asked to show her the best guard dog they had available. The elderly volunteer obliged her with his thick glasses and new tennis shoes, leading her through a heavy door to a noisy white cinderblock room packed with rows of cages housing large dogs. Perusing pensively up and down the rows examining the different breeds, she finally selected a healthy male German shepherd who seemed to take a liking to her.

German Shepherd

Fitting him out with all he needed to stay comfortably in the back yard, she finally left him for the night. Her nervousness was overtaken with a sense of relief in the natural duty of the fierce breed as she began to relax and drift off to sleep.

Early the next morning Mary awoke feeling rested. She spread the islet curtains, eager to see how the newcomer had fared. The view out the window shocked her: her garbage can lay charred with its rubbish strewn across the lawn with no sign of the canine. Apparently, she surmised, someone had set fire to the trash inside the can and let it burn out during the night while baiting the shepherd with meat.

She stormed through the kitchen out to the garage to the back porch steps and stood in her gown surveying the damage.

While she stood desperately seeking a solution, Mary remembered. Last Thanksgiving. After her dad’s death, her mother had delivered to her his small collection of loaded guns. Ironically, although she lived alone, Mary had protested the gift claiming she would never have need for such force. In her slippers she did an about-face, marched down the hallway, pulled down the attic door, extended the ladder, and stomped up the steps.

The rusty chain clinked against the bulb as she pulled it. There they were, leaning against the rafters: two WWII rifles, a large double-barrel shotgun, and a dusty metal box full of ammunition. Childhood memories of autumn skeet lessons with dad flooded her mind. A bullet of grief penetrated her heart as she blinked away a pooling tear.

Mary stepped closer and rubbed off the dust covering her dad’s engraved initials on each rifle. Pride swelled in her heart as she stared at the letters. She reached out and bravely picked up the shotgun. Its weight caught her off guard. Carrying it carefully under one arm, the rattling box of ammunition in hand, she pulled the chain and made her way slowly back down the ladder.

In the kitchen she wiped down the gun and box with a dish towel and left them lying on the floor as she stepped outside. Across the lawn she dragged a chair from the matching picnic table to rest near the tool shed. Her preparations for that evening were in order.

Picture of a Dogwood tree flower

Down to the hardware store she rode early that afternoon and bought a brand new trashcan along with flowers, bushes and a small dogwood tree. Laboring long and hard all that day in the summer shade, she determined to establish her personal territory the way she wanted it. Meanwhile,  she slipped her out-of town neighbor’s carpenter a generous check so that her fence could be repaired and repainted that afternoon.

With the sun fading, her garden and landscaping were nearly complete to her satisfaction. She had replaced the stones surrounding the garden, extending its borders and the selection of fresh flowers she planted burst forth a graceful brilliance. A long hot shower awaited her.

Twilight fell. A lovely overview of her finished work Mary enjoyed on her way outside, shotgun in one hand, cooler in the other. She planted herself firmly in the strategically placed lawn chair and opened a can of soda. Hours passed. The air cooled and the darkness grew to black as she dozed off over folded arms sometime after midnight.

The sound of distant broken branches underfoot suddenly roused Mary. Wide awake and heart racing, she grabbed the shotgun and stood up. The far off crackling grew louder and closer.  Taking a deep breath, she cocked the gun and braced herself. Squinting her eyes, forcefully she pulled the trigger. Up in to the black sky, a mighty blast exploded. For a split second her quaint little neighborhood sounded like a war zone. She startled at the kick of the blast, taking a step backwards. As the ringing in her ears subsided, she regained her senses and heard scurrying. In the woods more broken branches crackled, but this time gradually fading in to the distance.

At that moment, Mary knew that she had found the solution to her problem.

From that night on, Mary tended her property, weeding, trimming, watering, and fertilizing all on schedule. Night after night she continued to stand guard, even initially reversing her sleep schedule to ensure her success. Expectedly, the trespassers returned on occasion to call her bluff. However, after several months of implementing her strategy, the troublemakers eventually moved on.

The chair was finally returned to the picnic table. The shotgun lay dutifully against the corner cabinet by the backdoor. And the brilliance of her newly tended garden she relished daily. Even so, Mary remained vigilant in her awareness, and in her willingness to repeat every step just so if the intruders ever returned to challenge her again.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

1 Corinthians 2:16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Ephesians 4:23 be made new in the attitude of your minds;

Psalm 26:2 Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind

Proverbs 23:19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

Romans 8:6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

About ashleydwille

Author Ashley D. Wille was always searching for spiritual answers. “True and lasting satisfaction always proved just out of reach. Now, in midlife, I have come to find my soul satiated in God. Through sweet surprises, difficult climbs, and excruciating valleys, the Master’s hand has shaped me. All along the way, God has taught me many things. What He has taught me most is that many of my beliefs about Him were wrong.” Her book, My Journey Through the Cross, is a personal insight shared by an amazing woman. Through her profound experiences and inner struggles, Wille shows how she was able to break through false layers of thinking and move into a deeper relationship with God. Her beautiful journey is just waiting to be shared. If you are ready to live your life free of guilt and shame, you too can learn how to walk in spiritual freedom.
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