Friday, October 24, 2008

"OK to Open"

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights....” James 1:17

What a nice surprise awaited me today (10-12-04) upon my arrival home from filling out job applications all afternoon in Oklahoma City. When I pulled into my driveway on this crisp October day, I noticed that there was a very tall box by my front door. I thought perhaps something was to have been delivered to one of the neighbors and had accidentally been placed at my address.

A message typed on the address label of the box indicated it was sent specifically to me from Colombia/Ecuador and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it was “OK to Open” this curious cardboard container. I was rather frightened to think that something I did not order had arrived at my house from Colombia/Ecuador. Since the days of anthrax mailings in the United States have arrived, I visually scanned the box and calmly realized that no white powder was anywhere to be found.

Taking the box inside, I could read the label more clearly. Once I realized that the two-and-one-half-feet-long container held fresh flowers, I was even more curious. Who could have had flowers delivered just for me? With my excitement building, I opened the box and joyfully discovered that a friend in Maryland had sent them my way with the following message: “To my sweetest friend, Janet. For the seedling, every drop of rain holds promise. Here’s to God’s promises.... Maureen.”

The multicolored alstroemeria flowers (Peruvian lilies) were somewhat wilted after having been pressed forcefully into a sturdy prison-like box and shipped directly from the Colombian/Ecuadorian grower. The easy-care instructions indicated that I should:
1. Fill a clean vase with room temperature water.
2. Add a flower food packet.
3. Cut the stems of each flower at a diagonal.
4. Remove any leaves that fall below the waterline.
5. Replenish the water in the vase when the water level drops.
If I followed these steps, my flowers would be rehydrated and bloom longer according to the brochure. For a brief moment I thought about taking some shortcuts by not adding the flower food packet nor cutting each flower stem at a diagonal. I relented and followed the directions completely. Within a few hours the fresh-cut flowers were responding nicely and starting to fluff up in the vase that I placed in the living room. The unique bouquet of lilies has already added splashes of joy to my heart not only because they came from a special friend, but also because they came during a season in nature (and in my life) where things are dry, seem to be dying, and looking rather drab.

“For the seedling, every drop of rain holds promise”–Maureen’s words were simultaneously intriguing and encouraging. God knew that I needed to be challenged on this autumn afternoon to remember that after a l-o-n-g season of dryness the rain eventually comes, bringing a season of promise, hope, growth and freshness along with it.

Similar to the lilies, I too was growing like a seedling in the ground. All too soon I went through a time of dryness and discouragement, with not even a drop of hope in sight when we were told that my Dad’s cancer was terminal, with only one to four months to live. Then God sent a spiritual refreshing to me in the midst of the emotional pain, reminding me of His promises to never leave us nor forsake us. When my Dad was miraculously dismissed from hospice care because there was no sign of the metastasized lesions on his liver, it seemed that I was thriving nicely once again. All of a sudden I was cruelly “cut down” and pressed forcefully into my own prison-like box and shipped directly away to places of unfamiliarity: the unemployment office, personnel agencies and tedious days of fruitless searching for jobs on the internet.

My circumstances appear to have unkindly pushed me into a time of withdrawal and isolation in the same way that the lilies were harshly shoved into their confining box. I am finding though that I have been able to spend more tranquil time with God as I try to learn from the hindrances that have been placed upon my life. It is during these times that God wants me to be cleansed by Holy Spirit and nourished with fresh spiritual food from Him. Like most people, I dread knowing that step three is inevitably coming. (Remember the one about cutting the stems again?) I will unavoidably have more times of pruning in my future, but since Jesus is The Gardener I know that it is for my best.

God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit will remove any sin in my life once I confess it and ask forgiveness. They will replenish me when my level of faith drops too low. I cannot think about taking my own shortcuts when God has better plans for me. I must relent and follow His directions completely. When I follow God’s instructions, I will be rehydrated and “bloom” according to His will for my life.

Yes–the flowers are exceptionally lovely, but not as lovely as the kind heart of my special friend Maureen, and not as exceptional as the spiritual lesson that God is teaching me–that after a l-o-n-g season of dryness, His life-giving rain does come, bringing a season of promise, hope, growth and freshness along with it.

By the way–it’s “OK to Open” an unexpected gift from God. He sends gifts directly from His throne room specifically for you. Open a surprise today!

© by Janet Faye Broyles 10-12-04 & 10-24-08 Edmond, Oklahoma
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