Here in Texas, we’ve had, I don’t know – 4 years? – of drought. I lost all track of time, partly because there were no seasons by which to mark it. Then this last winter, we were inundated with rain. The clear sunshine that comes out between the spring storms has brought up the most resplendent display of wildflowers I’ve ever seen.
I grew up with California poppies and the now-extinct freeway oleanders. Acacia trees lined the streets near school, and mother grew Johnny-Jump-Ups in the garden by the front door. But entire fields of wildflowers? Only on one of our cross-country expeditions had I experienced drifts of Black-eyed Susans or the occasional century plant spear.
So I was completely broadsided this year with not only the abundance, but diversity of color all around me. Bluebonnets are always the first marker of spring, but this year the blood-red Indian Paintbrushes came out almost the same day, with the aptly named Indian blankets close behind. The Paintbrushes and bluebonnets are about gone now, but the blankets have joined another, lighter yellow flower to cover every pasture that has not been grazed this month. Coneflowers have sprung up, usually alongside another, taller, bluish-purple flower resembling a milkweed. Cactus is another yellow bloomer which is surprisingly delicate against the hard, prickly paddles they emerge from – they seem quite out of place. There is such an amazing array of color, texture, and pattern everywhere I look. And occasionally I catch the scent of something that smells like a rich, but faint, cup of honeyed vanilla water just after the rains.
Someone mentioned once that God gives us flowers, just as a gentleman will present his lady with a bouquet. I cannot believe how generous He has been to me. I have been ugly and selfish for longer than just lately. I’m reminded of that distracting boy in Wal-Mart, whining for what he needed ‘now’ and crying loudly until the second it was in his hand. He was all smiley then, until he saw something else his heart desired. What a spoiled brat! And yet, look at me, pouting until I’m recognized appropriately for having dinner ready, yet again, on time, with nutritious foods. And griping about being left with all the dishes afterward.
I think the biggest issue with being a housewife is that so much of it seems a constant dripping of needs from every direction at every hour, while still planning ahead for efficient handling of the predictable ones. Everything could easily be done by unskilled labor, but my presence is the key to success. I’m in the center of everything, needed by everybody, but my contributions are almost completely unnoticed. I’m not sure that every mother experiences this, but I cannot imagine I’m completely alone. Still, I began to fret that I wasn’t doing enough to earn my keep. Hubby was working hard already, so I tried to keep the troubling trivialities to myself. After a few years, neither one of us could see that all the myriad little duties, worries and responsibilities, combined with my constant on-call status, left no strength for much more than absolute survival. I tried to train my mind for better efficiency so I could accomplish more, but that was just one more load I couldn’t carry. What I realize now was that I needed nurturing, not discipline; I needed someone to care for me.
Spring came on with a vengeance and so overwhelmed me that I couldn’t help but notice. I came across that idea of these flowers being a gift from God. I’ve seen all the “God loves you” bumper stickers, but I really just needed to feel his hand on my shoulder in a tangible way. I needed something to fill my tank. I went for a walk with my camera and took as many photos as I could. I came home and played with the images on the computer. The wildflowers began to bless me as I noticed each nuance of shape and texture. They are the most delicate of plants, with no purpose or goal, and we don’t expect anything of them. They will not do as they’re told or grow where planted. They are merely a gift, unexpected and treasured, wherever they are for as long as they last. We have no hand in them.
I ran across this little teddy while cleaning this week, and remembered the sweet little girl who gave it to us. She appeared at my side just before a Bible study, back in the days when my husband was traveling a lot with work. I was lonely. She showed me the book she’d been struggling to read, and offered to read it to me. She did beautifully, and really didn’t want more than a listening ear. She thanked me sweetly when she finished, and then gave the baby in my lap her gently used teddy bear to play with. “She can have that, because I don’t play with it anymore,” she smiled. I tried to gently give it back to her mother, but her mother smiled just as sweetly and assured me the little girl would be offended if I did not accept her gift. I will never forget her as long as I live, even though I don’t remember her name. That little girl blessed me with a pure smile and a gift for no other reason than her cup overflowed with love. I went to the Bible study to find God – He wasn’t there. He was in the little girl beforehand that I almost shooed away.
When I realized that these wildflowers and the thoughts they elicited from me were a similar unexpected gift, I looked around for what else He’d given me. I noticed some cheerful people reaching out to me. Wildflower people? How else can I explain all those coincidences in life of people and sights and sounds that seem to have been placed just here, just now, for me. There is only One who truly understands and knows what I need, because He made me. But I must notice what He gives in order to accept it, and then take it home. Just like that teddy bear. And my photos of the wildflowers. It wasn’t until I published the photos that most of my family ever saw the wildflowers. Somehow, the glory around us had been missed. But once I noticed those tender little faces, loved them just for who they were with no expectation of return, I received so much more than I ever dreamed. They gave the same to all of us – but only I accepted it. I must give some away; I have too much for only me.
Funny – these last few years, I just wanted to be noticed and enjoyed for my presence. I wanted someone to realize that I had more to offer than another baby to the world, and that there might actually be a hint of intelligence inside these motherly clothes and forgotten, frizzy hair. But it wasn’t until I asked God to provide, with no limitations on what that might be, that I found the flowers, which brought a smile to my face, however fleeting. Those I shared them with smiled in return. I unwittingly carried happiness with me the rest of the day, I was so thrilled. Another smile and a pleasant comment came my way when I stopped at the store. Pretty soon, enough joy had accumulated that my face didn’t fade the minute I returned to my duties. I have new energy to do my tasks.
And maybe that’s the purpose of flowers after all – to smile up at us, offering us their fragile beauty and praying you won’t trample them underfoot. It is God’s hand on our wounded soul, in the most delicate touch imaginable. And as we smile back – or I photograph their happy little faces – I pray that your smile would be encouraged to come – or stay out a little longer.