A few moments that have impacted me in the last few weeks.
I saw the lavender bushes before I smelled them; my eyes are always drawn to these beautiful plants whose periwinkle flowers are so pleasing to me. Today though, the bushes did not have any flowers- nor many leaves either, for they had been freshly trimmed back for the winter. As I approached the gravel walkway which they lined though, each inhale became sweeter and sweeter; the trimming had released their aroma. My pace slowed- my breathing deepened. At first, there was only the clean smell of wet earth and the crisp, soothing smell of the lavender, but as I kept walking the smell began to change. A warmer, softer scent was present too; was it vanilla? Perhaps cinnamon? It was reminiscent of a warm snickerdoodle cookie fresh from the oven. My gaze drifted across the street and I saw the ice cream shop; of course – it was freshly baked waffle cones. I’m not sure if I’ve ever smelled a lovelier combination than I did at that moment. My steps slowed to a halt, by breaths became deeper, and I closed my eyes as I tried to memorize it. Perhaps heaven smells of fresh clean soil, freshly cut lavender, and waffle cones hot out of the oven.
She furrows her brow in an angry pout; her hands flapping in front of her. Soon, she shrieks loudly “I’m hungry! We’ve been traveling forever!” Her father takes a knee, with a gentle tone of voice, trying to soothe her. Her younger brother sighs and turns his face toward the window. Her mother looks tired, exasperated, and a little embarrassed. A few fellow passengers react less than gracefully to her noise; we’ve ALL been traveling for what feels like a very long time- and patience is running low. I wish that people could understand that Autism doesn’t wait for an appropriate moment to cause a melt down; I wish that people could just avert their eyes, keep their rude remarks in, and give this family the space they need to try to comfort their daughter who is obviously not handling the changes of the day very well. I wish that I was in a mental space to reach out and offer a distraction or support- but I am fighting tears myself; knowing by this point that we will not arrive in time for the event that we were traveling to; a family member’s funeral. A grey-haired woman with a gentle face approaches the family asks the parent’s permission, and then eases herself onto the floor a few feet away from the girl who is by this point sobbing loudly with her knees tucked up by her chin. “I can see that you are having a rough day, young lady. I’m afraid we all are. I just wanted to come over here and ask you about your shoes.” She pauses for a long moment; allowing her words to sink in through the sobs and the overstimulation. After a few moments, the girl uncovers her face, and peeks at her shoes quickly. (She has those wheely shoes on- the ones that you can skate with.) She takes a deep, shuddery breath, and says “yeah?” The kind woman continued to talk to her; asking her simple questions that led her to find grounding in her surroundings; talking quietly without touching her or asking for any eye contact; leaving pauses in the conversation for her to process. Within about ten minutes, the girl was calm, conversing, and looking much more peaceful. Clearly this woman had interacted with someone with similar many times before. I don’t know her name, and I don’t know her story, but her kindness on that day affected me. I’m deeply grateful for people who choose to intervene in another’s struggle; especially when they are well- equipped to help.
The musicians are leading us in a song about new life in Christ. One of the pastors stands in the baptismal tub, already soaked from the previous baptisms. Her video begins to play; her story- her struggles- her desire to be baptized. The video fades away, and she is in the tank now- this young mother and wife-publicly declaring her love for Jesus and her desire to live a life that honors him. She recently started attending our small group, and although I hardly know her yet, my heart felt such joy to see her baptism. A precious moment- a beautiful declaration. Tears stream down my cheeks as she rises out of the water-her face covered in the most beautiful, joyful smile. A new beginning.
He stands in the doorway, sweat dripping down his jaw; his shoulders lifting and falling with each breath. A cool breeze comes through the open door and he closes his eyes in enjoyment. It is 8am on Saturday, and he has already done several hours of homework, connected with family on the phone, and just finished a run on the treadmill. He is not a morning person. This is self-discipline. He doesn’t particularly love studying, nor does he love running. He wants a better future; he wants to stay healthy. This is diligence. He smiles as his hand raises in a wave and he calls out to our neighbor “Good morning! How are you today?” This particular neighbor has a social phobia and doesn’t talk to many people, but he always smiles when you greet him. There will be no verbal response to this greeting, but it is given sincerely day after day. This is kindness. I sit here, in my pajamas; just observing. He doesn’t know I am watching him. He isn’t doing any of this for anyone other than God and himself. This is authenticity. This man. He holds so much of my heart. He is flawed, as am I. He has struggles, and he sometimes makes wrong choices. He is human. But he is an amazing human, and I feel so grateful to be his wife.