Skinny flowers

I could never work as a gossip columnist or a hard news reporter. I’m too sensitive. I don’t like offending anyone, intentionally or not. I’m also hesitant about dropping names, especially when I know all the interviews I’ve ever had, all the celebrities I’ve ever met, are gifts from God, not rewards. I didn’t earn them.

During the last year I have taken my relationship with God to a different level. I don’t think we can ever reach an ultimate level of intimacy with our Creator. The more we seek, the more He reveals about Himself and about ourselves. Honesty is the key. We can’t lie to God. He knows what we think, how we feel whether we confess it or not. Confession frees us.

I have had a rough year. I have retreated. But I’ve learned when we’ve had more than our minds can take in, we need a quiet place to reflect and to be still. That’s where I’ve been. And in my quiet place, God has not forsaken me. He has sent me flowers, skinny flowers.

“Skinny flowers” is actually a phrase from a song by Three Crosses, my all-time contemporary Christian band. And yes, God came through on that one too and gave me an opportunity to write a story about this bluesy rock band for a national music magazine.

I never dreamed I’d talk to the members, but God is good like that, giving me the desires of my heart. One of my favorite songs is about a band member’s daughter who picks skinny flowers for her daddy, little bouquets of love.

I liked the album so much that I bought one for one of my best friends who had a little girl of her own. Rhonda played the “skinny flowers” song almost every time they were in the car, and little Emily, who is now a freshman in college, could sing every word.

The irony is God recently picked a very special skinny flower for me, one that makes me say, “Wow. Who would have though God was planning this all along?”  Of course, we never know what God has in mind, how He can make anything work for our good.

The little girl in that song, April, is now a beautiful young lady and recording artist with a voice like an angel, and my son Josh just shot  a music video for her yesterday. I never would have dreamed it. What a sweet gift!

I’ve seen parts of the video. It’s beautiful. I’m not at liberty to post anything else, but I can tell you I’ve heard her singing the song at least a hundred times this weekend via video, and every time I have had to stop what I’m doing to listen. The song is a cover tune, but I refuse to listen to the original. April makes me believe the song, makes me live the song.

Who would have thought that God would use the little girl who picked skinny flowers to help heal my grief?

The truth is during my retreat into the wilderness, God has not abandoned me. He has sent me several flowers, all in the form of special people who have changed my life and who have helped me heal.

I don’t know what’s next in life. Everything is changing—and some of these changes are good, exciting. I can’t help but think of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

I don’t know what will happen next. I do know how I feel. I suppose I’ll just keep climbing in faith. They say never look down when you’re moving to higher places.

Despite my flaws and fears, despite life’s circumstances, I haven’t abandoned God. He hasn’t abandoned me, and the skinny flowers he sends are constant reminders He has a plan. He makes things work out. He knows our hearts. He knows the truth.

So whatever it is that God has me doing, I want to be a skinny flower (quite literally, I’ll admit. I’ve been living the Weight Watchers life, and it’s working!) But more importantly I want to be a flower in someone’s bouquet, a reminder of God’s love. I don’t want to be a rose. Roses have thorns.

I think I’d like to be a rare wild flower like the ones that grow on the May Prairie. We had a few of them to pop up on our land when we lived in Asbury, and they dazzled me with their beauty. I never knew their real names. They were like nothing I’d ever seen.

I think I’m like a wild flower because I’m not typical. I think God places me in the bouquets of people who do don’t conventional very well.

I want my life to have purpose, to have meaning. I don’t care about material riches. I just want my life to be rich, so I invest in people, and so far, thanks to the lovely bouquets God has sent me during these dark days, I’d say I’m blessed beyond measure.

Seasons

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.     Luke 2:19

I know that I can hardly compare the events in my life to a divine miracle with the purpose of saving mankind. But still, when I think about the little things God has done to make me happy, I’m just amazed.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Really, I have. The times when I wasn’t writing were the times when I felt most empty, depleted.

I’ve always loved music. There was a period in my life when I had nothing to do with music. There was a part of me that died. Then I discovered contemporary Christian music.

I remember sitting at my mother’s house, watching the Dove Awards. Prior to that show, I had no idea that people could actually combine their faith with a Christian message. I said, “Next year, I’m going to be there.” I was. I meant in the audience. But God had other plans. He put me backstage.

There was a period in my life when contemporary Christian consumed my life. Sadly, I wonder if I made it my idol. Every weekend I was at a concert. I had the time of my life. There was not one celebrity I hadn’t interviewed nor one concert I hadn’t attended. Back then. Things are different now.

Today I ponder those things in my heart, like Mary. Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing these minor details to the divine. But God let me live the life I always dreamed about—for a little while.

I’ll never forget all the GMA weeks, especially the first time I met Michael W. Smith, my hero, the namesake of my child. My friend invited me to tag along with her to their interview. I almost flipped out when he entered the room. I almost passed out when I saw the articles I had written about him in his press kit while I was sitting there in the room looking at him in person.

I never dreamed that I would meet him again on many occasions. I never dreamed that he would call my house for an interview—and I would hang up on him, on accident, of course. He was so gracious and forgiving. I never dreamed I would find myself sitting at a table at media event and having someone bring him to my table for another brief introduction. I never dreamed I would get an invite to his album release party. Today I pity the poor man, having to put up with a loony stalker like me. At least I was harmless.

And the list goes on. There are so many little things, things that make me tear up, things that make me smile, things that make me giggle like a little girl. I’ll never forget blinding Peter Furler with the flash of my Canon Rebel during an Atlanta Fest concert—and then he wanted to talk cameras with me afterwards because he was thinking of buying one too. I’ll never forget going to a Newsboys album release event with Shrimp on the Barbie! I’ll never forget Phil Joel, the bass player with the beautiful long blond hair, holding my older son and running about the place, having a blast.

I’ll never forget doing a phone interview with Toby Mac while he was at a London airport or sneaking around backstage at an Audio Adrenaline concert, politely asking Ben Cissell if he would mind posing with me for a photograph. He was my favorite drummer at the time. I saw him play one night at cozy little gathering at Jammin’ Java in Franklin. Ah, fun!

I’ll never forget gawking at all the celebs at the Renaissance Hotel during GMA, especially Christafari. They were so different. I’ll never forget seeing Three Crosses for the first time. I fell in love with their music, and I still listen to them. I think about the blurb I used in the article I wrote about them in RELEASE magazine, something about miles to go before they sleep. I guess we were talking about life on the tour bus.

I remember chatting with Steven Curtis Chapman at his album release party and hearing my older son tell him at the Lifeway store in Nashville that Smitty was his favorite singer. I remember the first time I saw him play live at a little outdoor concert. I still have the BEST photo I’ve ever taken in my life, all blown up into the size of a poster. Thank you Steven Curtis. I wish I could play guitar like you.

I remember running into Brad Olsen at what is now Kangaroo Market in my own hometown. I miss that quirky sound of The Waiting. I treasure meeting Jamie Slocum and Phil Keaggy and Wayne Kirkpatrick and Nicole C. Mullen and all the guys from Third Day and Shaun Groves and Lori and Micah Wilshire. The list goes on.

Oh my, God has been so good to weave all these beautiful people into the tapestry of my life, even for the fleeting moment that it has been.

Those days are long gone. But God is opening new doors for me now. Different doors, but equally exciting doors. My prayer is that I will take each opportunity as a gift. That I will always remember that if anything good happens in my life that I am not the least bit responsible, for without Him I can do nothing. I pray that I’ll never allow my writing to become an idol but that I will take the gift that He has given me and use it to encourage others and to point them to His Kingdom.

Things happen in our lives for a reason. There is a season to everything.

I just found out that one of my stories (not my novel, not yet) will be published in a hardbound collection of stories sold at Barnes & Noble and at Walmart. Wow. God is so good. I wrote that story from the heart on a whim and sent it without worrying about whether or not it would be published. I am floored that I’m actually going to be able to step into a store and see my words in print.

I will treasure the moment and ponder it in my heart. It may last only a season, but I am thankful for every little thing He gives.