Thursday, June 28, 2007

Keep Going

I had a super busy day yesterday. Coffee with mentor at 7, worship planning meeting at 9, run home to change clothes and make a banner for the youth barbecue, run slideshow at memorial service at church at 2, meeting with new worship leader at 3:30, which went until 6:30, and then home to collapse on the couch and put the boys to bed while Jeff went to the aforementioned youth barbecue.

So today was shaping up to be sort of a rest day. I can’t really do two days in a row of activity – physical or emotional – without my body getting really tired – meaning my muscles get really heavy and it feels like I’m pushing through mud to do anything, and my muscles and joints burn. But not all the time. Some days are worse than others. We call those days “Rest Days.”

Well, today, my Rest Day didn’t happen.

I had to do the church bulletin this morning, and my deadline was 11:30, and long story short, I barely made it in time. Wahoo! Then the boys were hungry and we were out of food, so against the wishes of my screaming muscles, we all piled into the car, drove out to the church to get my paycheck, drove back into town and all the way across town to deposit my paycheck, stopped off at McDonald’s for our lunch, and headed to the grocery store.

The boys were fine, but a little rowdy, and we weren’t really at the store that long, and James and Jonathan were good helpers and everything, but when we got to the checkstand, two of the four mesh bags of cherry tomatoes in the cart had somehow opened, and the little tomatoes (not quite small enough to fall through to the floor) were rolling all over the bottom of the cart. Jonathan was seated in the cart, amongst the groceries, and I just began to panic, thinking he might step on all the tomatoes!

We got all the little tomatoes rounded up and put our stuff on the belt, and the elderly couple in line behind me glared and glared. And James, seated in the top kid seat thing of the cart, glared right back at them, and did things like gasp audibly and dramatically hide his face from them and peek out from behind his fingers. And then frown at them. And then say to me, “MOM! A ‘Don’t Know’ is in my space!”

Once we made it through to the other side, we began to bag groceries. But I had to empty the cart of boys to put the bagged groceries in, and they immediately began to run around in circles yelling and laughing and colliding with poor WinCo employees. I told both of the boys to stand still with one hand on the cart, and I went to pay. When I got back, there the boys were, running around in circles again. And I became highly annoyed that I was not being obeyed. After a painfully embarrassing string of similar antics, we grouched our way to the car, where a severe tongue-lashing ensued.

But mainly I was just SO DOWN for not being a better disciplinarian, and for not having taught my boys certain social niceties, and feeling REALLY JEALOUS that my friends at church all have angelic children who would never be loud and rambunctious in the grocery store, and it must be because I’m flawed that my kids misbehave, and I’m a bad parent (etc, etc, etc, tailspin of lies, blah, blah, blah) and then I thought, “No, it’s probably all JEFF’S fault!!” So I consoled myself by thinking cranky thoughts about JEFF’S parenting. Yeah. It wasn’t a very long drive home, so I didn’t get very far down that path to destruction.

As I pulled into the driveway, my brow was furrowed so deeply that I didn’t even notice, at first, the box leaning against the front door. It had a FedEx label, but it wasn’t a FedEx box. It said ProFlowers on it. My thoughts went something like this.

“Who would send me flowers?” Jeff.
“Why would Jeff FedEx me flowers?” He wouldn’t.
“Do I have a secret admirer?”
“That would be inappropriate. And a big hassle!”
“They’re probably for someone else and the FedEx guy got the wrong house. Now I’m going to have to hand them over to their rightful owner. Maybe I’ll just enjoy them myself and not give them to the rightful owner at all. They’d never know.”
I looked at the label on the box. “TO: Becky Frame.” “FROM: San Diego.”
“Who do I know in San Diego who would FedEx me flowers?”
“But they’re definitely for me. They have my name on them.”

Too emotionally strung out to continue my guessing game, I took the box inside and opened it. My eyes fell on this card, which I was able to read through once before there were too many tears blocking my view.

“Becky – thank you so much for your help. I think having to organize the memorial service would have pushed both Soph and I right over the edge. Love and affection from Cousin Nick.”

Underneath the note was a completely gorgeous bouquet of yellow roses, picked fresh yesterday in San Diego.

I extracted the carefully packaged flowers from the box and buried my tear-streaked face in them.

And suddenly they weren’t from Cousin Nick at all.

They were from Aunt Judy.

I said in my heart, “Oh, Aunt Judy, I miss you…”

And I swear I heard her say right back, “I miss you too…”

My tears became a torrential storm of gut-wrenching sobs. James and Jonathan, understandably alarmed, rushed to comfort me. They each put their head on one of my knees and patted my arms sympathetically.

All my frustration with the shopping trip melted away. Aunt Judy, my encourager, was there once more to say, “Take care of your boys, Becky. Respect your husband. Honor your Lord. Keep going.”

Through my sobs, I somehow felt an urgency to put these flowers in water. They were, after all, from San Diego. Hand-picked yesterday. But I don’t know anything about flowers. Jeff always puts flowers in water for me. I headed for the garage to find a vase, and it occurred to me that I was using a vase which had been given to me by Aunt Judy. Could I possibly cry any harder? There were two little packets of flower food stuff among the packaging, and I dumped one in the lukewarm water, along with the entire bouquet, just as it had been bundled, hoping that would be sufficient, but doubting so.

Gazing blearily at the roses for a long moment, I grudgingly turned my back on the vase to bring in the groceries. Then I discovered a little pamphlet entitled, “ProFlowers: For Your Fresh Cut Flowers: Flower Care Instructions.”

Relieved, I opened it up. For the first time ever, flower care made sense to me. I found the page on roses and read through the stuff I had already done, feeling satisfied to have followed the instructions to a point. But then I began to learn about guard petals, left on to protect the roses during shipping, and how I was to remove them to reveal the beauty beneath. And I learned that I was to take off any leaves that would have rested in water, and that this would keep the water cleaner and help the roses last longer.

I was glad there was a way to make the roses last longer because I’m leaving tomorrow for a youth staff retreat and I would have had to imagine enjoying them, rather than actually be with them, inhaling their heaven-scent. I was very glad to further read, however, that if I emptied the vase in three days and filled it with new water, and the second little packet of flower food stuff, that I would be able to enjoy my roses for much, much longer.

The last bit of instruction was to go to the page on arranging for tips and tricks. Cut some roses long, some shorter, and all the greens and other flowers even shorter. Aha! No wonder my roses always get lost in the arrangement! They’re not tall enough! Put the greens and roses in one at a time, in a grid, and then put the longest roses right in the middle, weaving them through the grid, so they’ll stay standing. Aha! My roses always flop to the side! So exciting.

So I took the flowers back out of the vase, and as I followed through the step-by-step instructions for nurturing and arranging, it was as if Aunt Judy was right there with me, instructing me herself, gentle as can be, saying things like, “See? That’s how you do it. There you go!”

And she, of course, was smiling, smiling. The entire time. Because, as we know, Aunt Judy is in heaven, and heaven is joy. Whose day can stay horrible when such joy is present?

All evening I have floated past my visual reminder to care for my boys, respect my husband, honor my Lord, and keep going. Even though I didn’t have a “rest day” for my body, my soul is at rest tonight. And even though it was Cousin Nick who clicked the mouse and typed the warm note and expressed the gratitude which set shears to rosebush, there’s no question in my mind that these flowers were heaven-sent.