It was a sunny, but very cold day in January when I went to Trader Joe's. I walked through the automatic sliding door into the slightly warmer store and found myself surrounded by flowers. The bouquets of bright pink and soft yellow and deep red brought a smile to my face. I love having flowers in our home. The daily sight of life and beauty is enough to quicken my heart and enliven my spirit. Fresh flowers bring me cheer, and I love picking out a beautiful bunch and taking them home. I usually display them proudly on our dinner table in an antique vase from my grandma.
The trouble with having fresh flowers, though, is eventually they die. The petals fall off and the water turns a terrible color and a new, less pleasant odor begins to emanate from the flowers. Most people, I would imagine, would throw away the flowers long before this point, but I always fail to do so. I don't really like to admit their death. I don't like to think about how the beautiful, colorful arrangement I picked out last week will sit rotting in our compost bin this week.
And this was my dilemma as I stood in the midst of the bouquets at Trader Joe's. I wanted so badly to have the cheering effect of the flowers in my home, yet I wasn't sure I could face the death of them in a week. You see, it was a particularly difficult January. First of all, I realized a few years ago that January is a hard month for me. The lack of sunlight really messes with me. I become especially tired, somewhat depressed, and even my personality seems to change a bit and become even more introspective than normal. I was facing more than the normal seasonal symptoms, though. Additionally, my 20+-hour-a-week job was recently cut to 10 hours (with a matching cut in pay), and to make matters worse, I have been especially frustrated at work. I have applied for several jobs to no avail, and while I am just about finished with my Master's degree, the not-quite-finished status still means I am not quite qualified for most jobs I want. On this particular day, I was dealing with a situation at work where I'd just been informed that at least one person had been greatly offended by my most recent sermon. It's amazing how much even that one rejection can hurt regardless of how many compliments I may have gotten the day before.
So there I stood, wanting, and needing, so badly to be cheered up, yet afraid to bring anything else that might feel like death into my life. It was then that I turned around and spotted a potted Jasmine plant. It was bright green and looked so lively as it climbed up a small ladder in the pot. It had crisp, white buds all over just waiting to bloom. I decided on a whim that this plant would be so much better than a bouquet. Not only would it bring beauty, but it also shouldn't die in a week. Just a few days earlier I had also learned about the power of Jasmine to lift spirits due to the essential oils in the plant. I knew that's exactly what I needed.
I took the plant home and placed it prominently on the dinner table. Each day I looked at it, wondering if it had grown and when the tiny buds would blossom. I read the care instructions very carefully, and I watered it religiously. Still, there were no blooms. I comforted myself by reasoning that it was pretty even without the blossoms. Weeks went by and I kept watching and waiting.
One night I came home after a particularly long week of work. I was frustrated, even angry. My weekly yoga class didn't even seem to make a dent in my mood. I was doubting my capabilities. "God, why am I even at this job? Why can't I find something else? Why am I in yet another difficult situation?"
I went to bed early, hoping to sleep away some of the stress.
The next morning I woke up stiff and sore and still emotionally exhausted. I walked downstairs, made a cup of coffee, and sat down at the table to write out a list for the day. It was at that moment I smelled it. It was faint but distinct over the smell of my morning coffee. It was Jasmine. I looked up, half wondering where the scent was coming from. A single bud had bloomed and it was emitting a heavenly scent.
My eyes welled up with tears. "It bloomed!" I shouted to myself in disbelief. I stood and stared at the bloom for quite a while, amazed that at least one thing in my life was blooming and not falling apart or dying. My eyes had welled at the beauty for sure, but also at the realization of God's presence and provision. Even in this difficult time, I was his, and He was guiding and providing for me, even in unexpected ways. Despite my seeming failures, God still saw me as precious and perfect and as his daughter. I was just as important to him in this time of trial as I was in the joyous times where everything seemed to be working. Just knowing that God was still with me and for me filled me with new understanding of his love for me and a new view of what it means to be resting in his palm.
The Jasmine had also started to bloom on January 28th, as if God was reminding me that the end of January was just around the corner.