She gave me the flowers during a particularly ugly time in my life. It was not that my life was ugly but I felt ugly. A mess. A failure.
I was nearly thirty and a mom of three young kids. I had gained a significant amount of weight after the arrival of my second child and carried that weight into my third pregnancy. My youngest child spit up copious amounts of breast milk, so much so that I’d taken to keeping a large hand towel on my shoulder instead of those thin little burp rags. But that still didn’t prevent me from wearing the rest of the milk that had missed the towel completely. I was chubby, smelled of old milk, wearing clothes that never felt right, and doing a job no one had prepared me for.
I didn’t know how to do anything that I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t know how to be a full-time, stay at home, home-schooling mom. I didn’t know how to make edible meals for my husband at the end of the day or have the house tidied up by the time he got home. Our little house was bursting with baby toys and stuffed animals, the forts the kids had made, and discarded milky towels. By 4:30 every day, I was counting the minutes for my husband to arrive home and get in the trenches with me or relieve me from duty completely.
Cindi was in the Bible Study I led at church. I don’t know how or why I was leading a Bible Study at the time, but somehow I was. She was older than me at the time, maybe late forties? She was younger than my mother but older than me. She had long gray hair and for whatever reason she adopted me for a season. She sent me encouraging cards, she hugged me when she saw me at church. She always had a smile for me and at the time I couldn’t figure out why anyone would be happy to see me. I probably longed for her attention and I was also scared of it. I didn’t (and still don’t) trust people very easily.
One day she came into Bible Study and handed me a bouquet of flowers. In my memory, they are roses but they could have been carnations. She accompanied the flowers with a note that said something encouraging, I can’t remember the exact words now. I just knew they were words I never would have told myself. The only thing I could see about myself was the gap between how I thought I should be as an adult, wife, and mother and how I actually was. The gap was a chasm the size of the grand canyon. I took those flowers and the note home.
How can anyone think I am worth buying flowers for? I wondered. You give flowers to someone because they’ve done something good, like after a great performance on stage. I haven’t done anything good. I fail at everything I put my hand to, every day.
With those flowers, a small seed of belief was planted. A mustard seed.
Maybe I am someone who can be loved.
Through Cindi’s consistent, persistent acts of love, the Lord was pursuing me. He was courting my heart. He was opening my heart to a love that I didn’t have to earn.
Those roots are still growing years later. Sometimes a cold winter shrinks them back, but then God courts me again. And again.
Maybe I am someone who can be loved. And, maybe, it has nothing to do with how I performed today.