A few months ago, in May to be exact, I was preparing The Elizabeth House for the Feast of the Visitation. I was in charge of planning the festivities, which included a candle-lit prayer service in our backyard’s Marian grotto. I decided that the grotto’s foliage needed some sprucing up beforehand because a thicket of old brown ivy branches overshadowed a beautiful cascade of green ivy that flowed over the cement wall by the statue of Our Lady. Thinking that the brown undergrowth was a dead eyesore, I took some pruning shears to it and cut it all out. This made the green ivy really stand out, and it was a beautiful backdrop for the Feast day celebration (see the picture- it was gorgeous!). A few days afterwards, though, I realized I made a big mistake: the undergrowth I had cut out was actually the older roots of the plant, and the ivy that was a bright green a few days before was now a crispy black! I had killed the very thing I was trying to make beautiful. Deeply embarrassed of my mistake, I enlisted the help of my roommate and we quietly pulled down the now-dead vines, hoping that not too many MissionCorps, volunteers, or moms would notice the bare grotto.

When I moved into The Hannah House during late summer, the “ivy incident” rarely crossed my mind, unless I was visiting The Elizabeth House. Every time I stopped by to pick up a donation, run an errand, or visit the moms and babies I spent my first year with, I would recall how I accidentally killed the beautiful plant and pray that somehow it could be fixed.

Weeks afterward, I received an answer to this prayer. While I was hanging out at The Elizabeth House, my old roommate, Elisa, came running in, exclaiming, “YOU NEED TO COME LOOK AT THE GROTTO!” Dashing out into the backyard, I came to see the surprise she had just discovered: new ivy vines were growing from the ground and creeping up the wall! The ivy was already halfway up the wall- it had been quietly growing back without anyone noticing!

This moment was incredibly emotional for me because it gave me a greater glimpse into the nature of God’s mercy. The Lord tells us that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). How true! God, through the beauty of His creation, took my mistake and brought about new life. It was a slow process that I didn’t even know was happening. In a much larger way, God – in his mercy – allows a ragtag community of moms, MissionCorps, staff, volunteers, and donors to come together in our weaknesses and in order for His glory to be revealed in a variety of ways: He slowly fixes thing that are broken, heals hearts, changes minds, and brings new life out in the most difficult of situations. The Lord can work with our mistakes and shortcomings, and that is the source of our hope at Maggie’s Place and beyond. God is never outdone in generosity, never outdone in mercy. It is this with this hope that we will continue to celebrate the Year of Mercy!


By Gretchen Smith, a MissionCorps member