What do perfume, lilacs, erosion, homework assignments, and Jesus all have in common? All five contributed to great lessons learned.
As always, I pray my way through my days, “Help me see, Jesus, what you want me to see right now, and teach me through everything you bring across my path. Help me see you in everything. Help me grow closer to you. And help me be a blessing to others you bring across my path with what you show me today—how you grow me this day.”
So this is how my day went yesterday . . .
Every day, after showering and dressing, I spray my favorite and only perfume onto pulse points. Somehow, I don’t feel properly dressed without a spritz of fragrance. But perfumes are tricky. Most give me headaches. I have to take my time experimenting with many before choosing one I love and that keeps me headache-free. I only buy one at a time, wearing it daily till I’m sick of it. Then, I start a new search. This year’s favorite is Coral by Bulgari, at Italian perfumery. Yesterday, showered, dressed, and spritzed with Coral, I headed out the door at 8:30 a.m. Nick tells me I smell good. So does he. He wears his own signature scent, Usher by Usher. Sigh! It’s really a great guy scent!
Driving to tutoring with Nick, he held my camera as usual. He’s my photographic assistant who earns two dollars for every ten minutes of removing lens cap, flipping camera switch to the “on” position, handing me the camera, then reversing the process every time I’m done taking a photo. Yesterday, Nick helped me photograph blooming branches in yards, orchards, and a cemetery. Apple blossoms and lilacs were the day’s photographic subject. Nick waited patiently, clocking my time—the shrewd businessman he is at 15—and watched me take close-up shots of blooming branches, some with open blossoms, some still closed tight.
The fragrance of lilacs—the open blooms—is a highlight of spring for me. Nothing smells so sweet and beautiful to my senses. But I noticed that lilac blossoms don’t all pop open at the same time like other flowering trees. Blossoms are in various stages of opening. The more they open, the greater they smell. And when the warmth of the sun strikes them, they emit the greatest fragrance, just like the warmth of skin causes perfume fragrance to meld and expand.
After arriving home, Nick and I started with Science. Today’s lesson was on erosion—the many types of erosion. I had given him some independent work: read two lessons and answer the questions in complete sentences with neat handwriting, proper capitalization, and correct punctuation.
Sadly, Nick had to re-do his independent assignment. Rather than take his time and work up to his potential, he produced written work that was completed rapidly and haphazardly, wanting to just be done with it and move on to something more fun. Not surprising for a teen. So, the mean mom that I am, I made him re-do this assignment. Grumbling, with sour face that read “I don’t like you right now,” Nick went to work. When done, his finished product was correct and beautiful. He was able to compare first assignment with second and see the remarkable difference. Then came the kicker life lesson. “Which is better? Doing your assignments right the first time or having to take double time and do them over?” That was a no brainer. He answered correctly, “Doing things right the first time.”
I ended my day leading a Bible study/discussion group for young ladies in our home. We’re going through Crazy Love by Francis Chan, a simple yet profound study requiring much self-examination of our relationship with Jesus and how we live that out. Yesterday’s topic was on passion. How passionate are we—how serious are we—about having both feet in the Kingdom of God—of loving and following Jesus with all our being—body, mind, and soul? These sweet young ladies, and their two older leaders, opened up and shared honest struggles as well as ways we’ve grown and still growing to love Jesus more and how that shows in our transforming hearts and relationships with others.
I went to bed last night, reflecting on the day, and wondered how all the day’s activities blended together. Were there lessons learned? Here’s what came to me:
First, we all have our signature scents, even if we don’t wear perfume. What do others smell when they are in our presence? Sweet, spicy, smelly? Some fragrances draw us closer, wanting more. Other fragrances repel, making us move away. Some fragrances change with time, getting richer and more uniquely beautiful as they blend with individual body chemistry. What is our spiritual fragrance?
Second, I considered the lilacs, my favorite spring blossoms. Unlike other flowering branches, lilacs are slow to open fully. One by one, blossoms slowly open and as each blossom unfolds, it releases its fragrance. Not until the blossom opens can one smell the sweetness. It’s a process, with lilacs. It takes time for full-blooming. So it is with us in our walk with Jesus. Little by little, He opens us as we expose ourselves to the warmth of His love. As we open to Him, little by little, we emit the fragrance of Christ to those around us, drawing them in to experience His sweetness—our sweetness that they might not even recognize as coming from Him yet. People either lean in, wanting more, or step back, repulsed.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
I want to be a fragrant offering to God and to the world in which we live, knowing that the fragrance of Christ in me lures some who are curious and repulses others who have no liking for Jesus and His ways. So it is.
And like lilacs, whose blossoms don’t all open in a day, we need to be patient with our growth—with our blossoming. Allow God to open us according to His time-table, just basking in the warmth of the Son and allowing Him to open each blossom of our soul in proper time. Forced blooms don’t last long. Natural blooming, according to the one great Gardener, is best. And since God made every blossom, every soul, we are all sweet-smelling to God. We all add variety to life with our differing shapes and sizes and bloom times and fragrances. Rest in Him. Stay basking in the warmth of His presence. In due time, we all will bloom. We all will fill the world around us with divine fragrance. He who begins a good work in us is faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)
Third, I reflected on erosion. Wind and rain and all harsh elements wear down. Life is difficult. We all deal with abrasiveness of hard people, difficult circumstances. Can we view even erosion as producing something beautiful if left in the hands of our Creator? The Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was created through erosion. Bits and pieces were worn away over time to create a masterpiece that brings people from all around the world to stand in awe at its edge. Erosion can be a wondrous process.
O, LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
But erosion can destroy as well. In the hands of a world opposed to God and His ways, my soul can start to break and the result is not beautiful. It’s devastating. Parts of the earth, eroded in damaging ways, leaves landscapes barren and ugly. Which type of erosion would I like in my soul? Fortunately, I get to choose. Will I place myself in the hands of God whose erosion process is more like a great potter, pulling and smoothing only in ways that make me more beautiful and mold me into a vessel of His design? Or will I place myself in the hands of a culture that rejects God? Do I want to experience the damaging effects of negative erosion, cracked and broken?
Fourth, I thought about homework. We all have assignments every day because we’re all in the school of life. Good teachers have high expectations because they see our potential and they work to bring out our best, which is often unknown to us. We tend to settle for mediocre, not knowing what we can do with good effort and coaching.
How often do I settle for mediocre? How often do I let Jesus stretch me and hold me to high standards to bring out the best? And how often do I have to go backwards, repeating assignments because of improper attitudes and less than optimal efforts? How much time and energy do I waste and how much joy do I miss because of my lackadaisical approach to daily life lessons?
And finally, there’s Jesus—my passion for Jesus. How hot am I, in His opinion, for Him and His ways? On the temperature continuum, would He define me as cold, lukewarm, or hot? I know He would rather me be cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15) Cold-hearted people often experience their dire need of God, sooner or later. Hot-hearted people are full of passion, on fire for Christ. But the lukewarm? They are complacent. They are content to give God crumbs and keep the best for themselves. They are interested only in “fire insurance”— slipping into heaven without caring too much about Christ, His ways, His mission on earth. Jesus has harsh words for such people and a stern warning. Repent! If we don’t let Him fan the flame of passion in our hearts, He says He will say He never knew us. He warns, “I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)
Oh please, Jesus, fan the flames of my heart and never let me be found lukewarm to You and Your ways!
As I lay my head down on my pillow, ending yet another day of my 53rd year, I thanked God once again for His faithfulness to me, to all of us—His faithful instruction, His gentle sculpting hand in my life, His holy hands that open my blind eyes to see, His amazing grace and love that warms and fills my heart with His sweet fragrance, opening it little by little in His perfect timing, and releasing His scent on the wind of His Spirit, wafting His aroma of life to the nostrils of a hurting world, seeking solace and hope.