Right now, I have $15.87 in my wallet. I thought you'd want to know the exact amount, being that I named this post the way I did. So I counted. And that's pretty much what I can call my own.
But I'm rich. Let me tell you how rich I am. This very moment, sitting on my kitchen table in a wide-mouth, quart-sized Mason jar, are four lilac sprays. That’s a whole bouquet, mind you. And even from my blogging spot, some five feet away, I can smell the heady scent of lilacs.
Now do you see? I’m four-lilac-spray wealthy. It’s been a long road—-a long, frustrating, "bite my lip and keep walking" road--but the waiting and the lip biting finally paid off. When I arrived home from our women's retreat Saturday afternoon, I walked over to my lilac bush (which I’ve been watching for a good eight years now) and clipped those sprays right off. Left three hanging there, waiting for me to come back for them in a day or so. So I guess that makes me seven-lilac-spray wealthy.
Last year I got only one. I loved every tiny purple starburst on that lone spray, but it didn’t exactly qualify as a bouquet. The year before, and all the years before that, I got nothing but greenery. About six years ago, just as I sensed I was about to get a bit of long-awaited purple, a renegade goat jumped the fence and made a beeline for the lilac bush. In the time it took for me to glance casually out the living room window, take in the sight of that goat dining blithely on my hopes, drop my tea and run screaming out the front door, he'd made quick work of every leaf and tender branch. If I remember clearly, I cried. That rascal left a pathetic victim in his wake. The lilac bush was so choppy, so stunted looking, so bare-bones ugly, I almost put it fully out of its misery. But I couldn't do it. Instead, I shook my head, gave it a quick, "You're on your own," and left the stripped twig to its own devices.
Its rebirth was slow, but yet again I've seen that patience yields good fruit, or in this case, good scent--a scent so potent, so tantilizing, so intoxicating that you have to sniff with your eyes closed.
I couldn't keep all that purple glory to myself. So yesterday morning, I coaxed Zac into holding the Mason jar-bouquet while I drove us to church. When we got there I set it down on a table in the foyer, and before my hand left the jar, three people had scampered over for a whiff.
After the satisfying time we had at the retreat, I simply do not deserve to be blessed any further. We laughed together, cried together, and got a little clearer glimpse of God together. We sat in awe and listened to Laurie Watson, one of my favorite people in the world, as she recited the entire book of 1 John from memory--all five chapters--during one workshop. I couldn't stop crying as she spoke those words straight from her heart, and I wasn't alone. There was such a holy presence in that room as Laurie spoke that my entire body felt electrified. It felt almost as if we were right there the moment God first inspired John's letter.
That would have been enough. That would have been plenty to make me feel like a wealthy girl. But it went on and on. My friend Nancy made a beautiful bracelet and journal for me. I ended up with a room to myself--a gift from planning team (thank you, Diane :) because they knew I'd need to rest and study and pray before my three teaching sessions. And in the quiet of my room, I had time to think and pray and listen and write. I even slept eight hours the first night, something I almost never do.
The theme of our retreat was "The Invitation," which we studied out of Isaiah 55. In our passage, God invites us to come and eat and drink what we could never afford to buy for ourselves, and to stop striving after those things which will never satisfy, and to let him fill our lives with abundance and joy. I loved every minute of my preparation, and I genuinely felt that I had a handle on what God offered through that invitation, but it wasn't until I got home and stared at those lilacs that the truth really sunk in.
He's given me a husband and two children who amaze me--a family I never could have collected for myself, and quite frankly, don't deserve. He's given me close friends--near and far, old and new. He's given me a home with two swings on the front porch and two skylights in the ceiling, through which I like to watch the clouds he formed float past.
He took my husband's whispered prayers and answered them by gathering a church body where none had existed before, and populating that body with gracious, loving people who know when I need a hug and know when I need to laugh, who readily share the most intimate moments of their lives with me, and who regularly tell me that I matter to them.
He's given me life and purpose, forgiveness and hope, joy in abundance ... and seven lilac sprays.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. - Ps 36:7-9 NKJV