We all admire her. At least we know we should. The gracious, strong, wise, positive friend who can always see the bright side of things. Just when we want to whine, she comes along to cheer us up. When we face challenging moments, here she comes to remind us of the blessings we have. What does she know that we don't know? Here's what I think.
There are two blooms that I appreciate above all others. Not because they are especially showy or rare or difficult to grow. It is because of when they bloom. They appear in just the right form in just the right time. The reliability of these blooms is comforting.
The first is the humble and ubiquitous daffodil. At this time of year they are blooming all over. I see their bright yellow petals shining along the shoulders of the rural two lane highways as I drive along, and also in my back yard. My neighbors' yards too. The muddy, brown landscape is still carrying the signs of winter when suddenly these flowers materialize to encourage us all. They show up places I didn't plant them and each year there are more than the year before. I cut a nice handful to put in a vase in the kitchen and their sweet floral scent fills that small space quickly. Daffodils bring joy just by showing up. They do what they do and it brings a smile. Their timing is always perfect.
The second is the equally humble crepe myrtle. In the south east, at least, these are also seen everywhere you go. They come in a small but cheerful variety of colors. My favorite is the bright purply pink. My next door neighbor planted some years ago. I can see them perfectly from my deck. These big cluster blooms are another bright blast of color that shows up just in time. At the end of the summer, when all the earth is parched and browning, when every other tree and plant in my garden are drooping in the heat and the scorching sun, the crepe myrtle trees bloom. I don't know how they do it. The smell of the overheated grass covers every other scent but, incredibly, these trees are blooming. During the most unbearable and brutal weather of the year in our part of the world, crepe myrtles shine like a beacon. They make me smile. Their timing, like the daffodil, is perfect.
Do you know people like that? People who show up in your darkest times and shine a bright light on the path ahead? People who, in spite of the own grief, bloom in full color and help you smile? Do you know her? How do you feel when you are with her? Are you annoyed because she interrupted your pity party or are you grateful for the joy she brought? Maybe you feel a little of both. I find that with each passing year I am more and more grateful for any joy that interrupts and redirects the distress of any moment. The feelings of self righteousness and defeatism are not appealing to me. I crave daffodils and crepe myrtles.
Many years ago I made a conscious decision to be a daffodil and a crepe myrtle. When Jesus said that we are to be the light of the world, I took Him seriously. I wanted to be a light in the world. It is very easy to give in to the base human instinct of negativity and pessimism. The way of Christ has never been easy. Falling in to the trap of hopelessness and despair is the simplest thing to do. The problem is that days become months and months become years. And the lifetime that you could have spent focusing on daffodils and crepe myrtles is slipping past with little joy or abundance. God's plan for us is to have both. (John 10:10)
Do you want to be a daffodil in winter or a crepe myrtle in summer? You know, when you become this, it is primarily to be a light for the world...not just for yourself. You yourself will benefit from this, but that is a by product rather than the goal. Here are a few steps to become a life giving bloom. These steps may also help you recognize the people around you who are already serving the world in this way. The world needs more joy...jump in here!
It begins with a decision. People who are daffodils have, typically, had as many heartaches, tragedies, griefs, and hardships as those who live in the swamp of self absorption. The only real difference is that daffodils decide, in spite of their difficulties, to live a life in which they shine. Until you decide to take your eyes off of your own troubles you will never know the pleasure of blooming a bright bloom and shining a bright light. Look at yourself honestly and squarely and say to yourself, "I want to be a daffodil. I want to be a crepe myrtle. I want to shine as Christ said I could shine. I want to be part of the healing in my community. I want to be a life giver. My life can be used to bring joy and hope no matter what has happened to me.
It continues with a commitment. Being a daffodil is easier than you may think it is. It is simply a matter of doing it. Consciously respond with a positive word or action when the situation needs it. If you are experiencing a challenge be your own daffodil. It is good practice for when your neighbor needs one in their life. Be on the look out for opportunities to be love in action. Walk in rather than walk away when you witness someone else's grief. Hug someone who is sad. Acknowledge what people around you are feeling. Mirror their emotions as Paul told the church in Rome. (Romans 12:15) Determine to do this sacred work. Commit to it.
It carries farther than you can know. When you are a daffodil or a crepe myrtle your beauty is not just for the moment. You become a segment of a chain of growth and joy that expands and reaches beyond the time and place where you are. You are part of the succession of those who brought joy before you existed, and those who will bring joy once this life is over for you. Life givers are far more influential than those who complain or manipulate. Negative words and deeds fall flat where they land and go no further. It is preferable, in my view, to leave a legacy behind. There is no better way than to do this than to bring light in the darkness or a bright bloom in a landscape that is brown and grey.
Blooming in the off seasons is a great skill that can be developed. When you meet someone who does this you can know that they don't do it by accident. This type of person has fought battles, overcome obstacles, and experienced deep loss and hurt. You can be light in the darkness, a crepe myrtle in the summer, a daffodil in the winter.
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