For the past year I’ve been intentionally slowing down. Not that age isn’t helping me out, mind you, since I’m creeping closer and closer to the top of the hill, but I’m not talking about that kind of slowing down. I mean taking a deep breath, inhaling the crisp spring air, taking in the beauty and blessing of this phenomenal life.
My son Matt reminds me of this, every time we pass flowers–anywhere. Even out shopping as we pass the floral department he will purposefully stop, bow low toward the display, close his eyes, and draw scents into senses deep. I smile, amused as I watch him move from one bloom to another as he takes it all in, lingering over each flower like a long-sought treasure. Others generally take note, too, like they’ve never seen a man stop and smell the roses. I always hope they take it with them and at least think about the lesson later. I do, and I thank God for this reminder clad in cargo pants and t-shirt.
I sit cozy at my desk on a beautiful Wednesday morning, heart warmed by the memory of my beautiful friend Leslee Stewart’s message at our last women’s Bible study. I won’t soon forget the way she laid her heart bare before a crowd of empathetic ladies, pooling eyes all turned toward her and feeling it together. What we felt wasn’t so much her regret over spending years of her life driven toward success, but more so the hope she poured out to us–a hope found in knowing that real success comes only by becoming who we were created to be. Her willingness to be so real stayed with me.
I lived most of my childhood driven. Driven to escape brokenness, abuse, dysfunction, loss, neglect, and alcoholism. My parents did their best, but it was clear they weren’t the best for one another–or me, as long as they were together. The divorce came, followed by more years of confusion, then things settled some. Daddy remarried an angel on Earth and grew closer to God, and Mama poured herself into hard work and an endless search for love. Then on an early October morning just shy of my 13th birthday we got a phone call that Daddy was dead.
I entered my teen years longing for someone to show me who God was, what real love was, why life made any sense at all. I’d seen glimpses of Him in the heart and life of my new step-mama–who remained “Mama Mary” to me until her death many years later–but the truth was, I was a broken kid with no dad and a single mom and I was just plain lost. I think the moment I first saw Steve at the stop light at Adamo and Highway 41 was the moment God reached down and found me.
I was 16 and pregnant before it was cool enough for a reality show. We got the news at a little women’s health center on Fletcher Avenue on a warm Monday morning in June. I was so sick I could barely hold myself up. Smothered in shame, we broke it to our parents. I resigned my position as Band Captain for the coming school year, confessed my sin to my devastated band director, and laid down my letter and medals and plans to go to FSU on a music scholarship.
We got married three weeks later in the little church my new husband and his parents had helped build. The whispers of “They won’t last six months!” and “Wow, what a waste. She could have done so much, been so much…” made their way into my young heart and pierced sharp. I remember thinking his mom and dad must feel like their son’s life was over. I later learned that they didn’t, but they were scared for us. They loved me, and my mother loved Steve, and we all pulled together to dig for the beauty in the ashes of poor youthful decisions. I finished high school while I finished my pregnancy and became a mama three months after I turned 17.
And now here I sit at 48, beauty all around me–proof that He can and will turn our mourning to gladness if we’ll ask. I couldn’t have dreamed all this. Five beautiful children, two precious granddaughters, and this sweet husband who still after all this time looks at me with those eyes filled with love and makes my heart beat faster…who am I to be so blessed?
I spent my childhood driven, but I’ve spent many years since then drawn. He’s been pulling me closer to His side my whole life. And I feel Him now, stronger than ever, reigniting in me the purpose He has for my life, showing me where I came from and where He is taking me. I share my stories because, like Leslee, I gratefully long to share His hope.
It is a hope worth wording, and I hold it out like an early spring flower hoping someone will want to stay bowed low a little while longer just to savor the scent.