Unexpected

My daughter and I wandered into the air freshener aisle at the store. Cans of seasonal sprays, plug-in devices, and candles pervaded an entire section. It was one massive scent parade. An equally large clearance display housed the already forgotten summer fare of cotton laundry, ocean breezes, sunflower burst, and Malibu sunshine. It was, after all, barely the first week of September. Room needed to be made immediately for everything that suggested colder weather, crackling fireplaces, and sweaters. There was no more running wild in flip-flops and short sleeve shirts. It was time to buckle down and bundle up! Yet, it was still 85 degrees outside. 

She sensed my dissatisfaction with looking at pumpkin anything this early. I pulled out my phone to distract myself as she surveyed her options. 

“You don’t want me to get this,” she said, picking up my thought. 

It felt too early. My tan lines hadn’t faded, and I knew how this always ended. By the stroke of midnight one second past Thanksgiving, everything she was considering buying would be in the trash. All of this seemed so thrilling now but day after day of it got to be monotonous. Half of the product would go unused. Then it would be onto evergreen or sugar cookie, which I already saw on the shelf creeping their way in. 

“No, I don’t. Are you sure you will even use it? You know how you get tired of it quickly.”

She has a slight weakness for anything marked Limited Edition, so I didn’t put a lot of energy into dissuading her as I knew my efforts were futile. 

She went on to smell another offering, and I went back to not paying attention. Locking down her choice and sliding it into the cart, I still had a visual of me throwing it away in two months. 

Once at home, I took out a new box of baking soda. I had scoured the extra refrigerator in the garage, and it needed a replacement. My daughter was emptying the contents of her shopping bags on the kitchen table as I headed out the door. 

I was just about to open the fridge when I realized I forgot to mark the date to remind myself when another box would be necessary. 

I spun around quickly in the pursuit of a black sharpie located in the kitchen. From that moment, I don’t clearly recall everything. Right as I pushed open the door to go back in, I collided with my daughter, who had one arm upraised. This caused me to look upward at her hand. In a swift, sweeping motion, she dispensed pumpkin air freshener into my eyes, onto my lips, and straight up my nose. I gasped, which only caused me to inhale more, and my tongue fell victim. I had luckily slammed my eyes shut out of an initial response. 

“Mom! Oh, no! Are you ok? Mom! Mom!” 

I was saturated in an artificial mist cloud, leaving me without the ability to communicate or breathe properly. 

The more I was frozen in place with my eyes closed, the more she panicked. 

“Mom! Please say you are ok! Mom!”

Finally, able to speak, I said one word, 

“Why?” 

“I wanted you to be able to smell it when you came back in. I was going to spray it around the whole door, so you could see what it was like. You were supposed to walk through it and be surrounded by it.

She had maced me. 

I ventured to open my eyes a crack. There was no burning, just the overpowering aroma of factory produced pumpkin, mainly because I had a wet upper lip dripping with the scent. 

I looked at her through the haze. Her eyes were wide with her finger still on the nozzle. 

I have lived long enough to have tasted pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin bars. This was not that at all. Not even close. It was a disguised can of hair spray marketed for autumn. 

I noticed I had somehow held onto the box of soda as I started to return to a state of consciousness. 

“Mom? Are you ok?”

“No! I am not! I’m not okay! No! None of this is okay! Nothing about this is ok at all!”

And that’s when I started laughing so hard I could not stand up. I ended up lying on my back in the middle of the kitchen. The air closer to the floor wasn’t as perfume ladened, but I was a walking fragrance from which there was no escape. I tried rubbing it off my face, but it soaked in more and transferred itself onto my hands. As I took in oxygen, I got to experience the simulation of fall over and over. 

Assuming I was fine, she laughed with me. 

“I wanted you to see that it wasn’t a waste to buy it, and I would use it.” 

I rolled to my side, trying to stop the waves of laughter that gripped me. 

I caught my breath for a moment to say, 

“It is not even fall yet!”

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time isn’t a pleasant experience. I was going about my life, not anticipating a seasonal assault at the door. 

My daughter intended to “cozy” up the house, but it didn’t turn out that way. Her timing and mine were off. What if your timing and God’s don’t coincide? Do you keep trying to make something happen, or do you wait until the way opens up? 

I think we all know when something is easy, and all the pieces fall simply into place. There’s no force needed or coercion, and it just comes along naturally. Often with God, we are left with mouths hanging open in awe. All of your plans could never be as detailed and take into account all that is involved. 

Lagging is never a good idea either because opportunities get missed, and regrets happen later. So how do you walk in line with the Creator of all? 

Proverbs 3:5-12

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Message)

So as we move into another season, where things change beyond our control, remember the One who is in control of it all. You never know when that great thing you have been waiting for will suddenly manifest. 

Often God’s timing is just like that pumpkin spray…unexpected.

Heaven Scent

Whipping Cream. Cola. Whipping Cream. Cola.

When I enter a grocery store without a list, I mentally repeat what I need so I don’t forget before leaving.  One item was in dairy, and the other would be found in the pop section, so I took off in that direction.   The next thing I knew, I was reading labels on brownie packages, crumb cakes and cookies.  How had I gotten to the bakery department? When did I take a detour to salivate over all the baked goods?

This phenomena is similar to when you get in your car and drive to a destination and you have no clue how you got there.  Your mind is on autopilot and without much effort, you find yourself where you wanted to be.  However, in this case, I was not where I had intended to go.  As if waking up from a short term case of amnesia I thought,

What am I doing?  It’s still January!  Why am I clutching desserts which I swore off just a few short weeks ago?  This usually doesn’t happen at least until February!

I put back the forbidden fruit pie and my fingers brushed up against a large circular container of cookies.  In that brief second, I was taken back to a time in my life when survival seemed to be a struggle.

I was looking over a math problem with one of my girls when I heard the familiar beep of his horn.  A couple honks to indicate that I needed to open the garage door.  This was a ritual on Friday afternoons.  As a volunteer at the local food shelf, he faithfully helped hand out items to those who found themselves in tough financial situations  Often, he would make trips to various stores to pick up extra boxes and food items including baked goods that were nearing the end of their shelf life.  At the end of his shift, he was allowed to take what he wanted, especially those things that probably wouldn’t survive the weekend.  With me and my daughters in mind, he would pick up an assortment of products that he thought would help alleviate the hardship.

This was in the wake of my divorce when life was uncertain and my worries were at an all time high.  I was swimming in new waters as a single mother hanging on to God as a life preserver and wondering if I would ever see a semblance of normal again.

Every day I had the nagging thought that I was not going to make it.  I don’t know exactly what I thought that meant, but I constantly was anxious about not being a good mother, falling short on my bills and a host of other tragedies I imagined would befall me.  I slept in small amounts and at times ate next to nothing just to make sure my children had enough.  The dark circles under my eyes gave away my inner turmoil, and falling asleep the minute I sat down also was a clue to those around me that I was exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually.

That particular Friday when I got out of bed for the day, I kept thinking about flowers and how much I missed having a fresh bunch of them displayed on the dining room table.  I had never gotten many of them except the occasional birthday or Valentine’s bouquet, but when I did, I absolutely cherished them.  I would drag out the best vase I could find and fuss over them for days trying to make them last forever.  When I had to throw them away, it felt like I had attended a funeral, and I knew it would probably be a long time before I would see any again.

It was beyond me why I was thinking about flowers that day.  There wasn’t any extra money lying around to cover the cost.  And I never had been in the habit of purchasing any for myself. I guess I was under the impression that in order to have them, they had to be given to me on a special occasion.

Despite those beliefs, I kept seeing images of roses as clear as if they were already in my home, and I recalled how they smelled fresh out of the package.  While walking through the living room, I thought,

“I really wish I had some flowers.”

I put the idea out of my mind as I became preoccupied with school work with the girls until I heard the familiar sound of his horn. I walked over and hit the button and heard the chugging sound of the door going up.

Before I could get my shoes on, he was already at the door handing me bags of fruit and other packages.

“Not a whole lot there today,” he said with a shake of his head.

“That’s okay,” I said as I took what he had brought. “Is there more? Do I need to come out and get anything?”

“No. I can get it. The shelves were kind of bare today.”

I began unpacking everything on the counter and pulled the garbage can over. This was part of the sorting process. Most of the food was on its last leg of freshness so I often had to discard moldy pieces of fruit, meat or cheese. And even when I thought what I kept was okay, often the next day I would have to throw more as it had succumbed to death overnight.

The two girls came into the kitchen to see what treasures their grandpa had found.  Organic blue tortilla chips for salsa were usually fresh, and sometimes a welcome vegetable tray would somehow manage to stay unshriveled. They always found something to snack on as they watched me put things in the garbage and some into the refrigerator.

As I separated the good from the bad and ugly, the one staple that was never stale were the cookies that had been donated.  The food shelf staff were told to give away more of the nutritious items to families versus baked goods, so there was always an abundance of them left over.  The stores had to get rid of them a few days before expiration and the agreement was that whatever was donated had to be taken.

So it was no surprise to come across a gigantic cookie tray in the pile.  I took half of its contents and put them into a freezer bag to ward off impeding doom and the other half were left to sit on the black plastic tray under the clear dome lid. As I was putting the cover back on, the door opened.  The sound of crunching cellophane made me glance up.  In each hand he was holding a bouquet of flowers.

“These were donated and no one wanted them.  Would you?  I saved one for your mom too.  I tried to pick out the ones that looked the best.  These look pretty good.”

I walked over to him and peered into the bags.  Both bouquets were roses that were surrounded by green foliage and white baby’s breath.

“They had flowers at the food shelf?  Why?”

“I don’t know.  They were donated to be given away.”

I took both bags happily, but I found myself perplexed.

I was having trouble deciding whether I had said a true prayer for a bouquet of flowers or if my visions of them beforehand were God’s way of letting me know I was going to get a delivery later.  I had not been specific about the amount that I wanted, and in true form to how it goes with the divine, I was given two bouquets when one would have thrilled me to pieces.

I washed my crystal vase and combined the two into a bright array that made me smile every time I walked past them. It made me feel like I wasn’t struggling and that money wasn’t so tight.  The impact of that day stayed with me and confirmed a passage that says: “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask..”

The roses and their fragrance were a constant reminder that I was not alone in my circumstances.  I found strength in the idea that a pair of listening ears, caring eyes, and strong hands were always at the ready to help right on time when my faith was stretched to the limit. This small gesture was an enormous uplift and boost to my wavering confidence.

My circumstances have gotten a lot better since then. But, I will never forget that I was the recipient of something that was heaven scent.

 

roses