Magnolias

My mom forwarded this story to me today, and I just had to share it.

I spent the week before my daughter’s June wedding

running last-minute trips to the caterer, florist,

tuxedo shop, and the church about forty miles away.

As happy as I was that Patsy was marrying a good

Christian young man, I felt laden with

responsibilities as I watched my budget dwindle . .

So many details, so many bills, and so little time.

My son Jack was away at college, but he said

he would be there to walk his younger sister down

the aisle, taking the place of his dad who had died

a few years before. He teased Patsy, saying he’d

wanted to give her away since she was about three years old!

To save money, I gathered blossoms from several

friends who had large magnolia trees. Their

luscious, creamy-white blooms and slick green eaves

would make beautiful arrangements against the rich

dark wood inside the church.

After the rehearsal dinner the night before the

wedding, we banked the podium area and choir loft

with magnolias. As we left just before midnight, I

felt tired but satisfied this would be the best

wedding any bride had ever had! The music, the

ceremony, the reception – and especially the

flowers – would be remembered for years.

The big day arrived – the busiest day of my life –

and while her bridesmaids helped Patsy to dress, her

fiancé Tim walked with me to the sanctuary to do a

final check. When we opened the door and felt a

rush of hot air, I almost fainted; and then I saw

them – all the beautiful white flowers were black.

Funeral black. An electrical storm during the night

had knocked out the air conditioning system, and on

that hot summer day, the flowers had wilted and died.

I panicked, knowing I didn’t have time to drive back

to our hometown, gather more flowers, and return in

time for the wedding.

Tim turned to me. ‘Edna, can you get more flowers?

I’ll throw away these dead ones and put fresh

flowers in these arrangements.’

I mumbled, ‘Sure,’ as he be-bopped down the hall to

put on his cuff links.

Alone in the large sanctuary, I looked up at the

dark wooden beams in the arched ceiling. ‘Lord,’ I

prayed, ‘please help me. I don’t know anyone in

this town. Help me find someone willing to give me

flowers – in a hurry!’ I scurried out praying for

four things: the blessing of white magnolias,

courage to find them in an unfamiliar yard, safety

from any dog that may bite my leg, and a nice person

who would not get out a shotgun when I asked to cut

his tree to shreds..

>

As I left the church, I saw magnolia trees in the

distance. I approached a house…No dog in sight..

knocked on the door and an older man answered. So

far so good. No shotgun. When I stated my plea

the man beamed, ‘I’d be happy to!’

>

He climbed a stepladder and cut large boughs and

handed them down to me. Minutes later, as I lifted

the last armload into my car trunk, I said, ‘Sir,

you’ve made the mother of a bride happy today.’

No, Ma’am,’ he said. ‘You don’t understand what’s

happening here.’

‘What?’ I asked.

‘You see, my wife of sixty-seven years died on

Monday. On Tuesday I received friends at the

funeral home, and on Wednesday . . . He paused. I

saw tears welling up in his eyes. ‘On Wednesday I

buried her.’ He looked away. ‘On Thursday most of

my out-of-town relatives went back home, and on

Friday – yesterday – my children left.’

I nodded.

‘This morning,’ he continued, ‘I was sitting in my

den crying out loud. I miss her so much. For the

last sixteen years, as her health got worse, she

needed me. But now nobody needs me. This morning I

cried, ‘Who needs an eighty-six-year-old wore-out

man? Nobody!’ I began to cry louder. ‘Nobody needs

me!’ About that time, you knocked, and said,

‘Sir, I need you.’

I stood with my mouth open.

He asked, ‘Are you an angel? The way the light shone

around your head into my dark living room…’

I assured him I was no angel.

He smiled. ‘Do you know what I was thinking when I

handed you those magnolias?’

‘No.’

‘I decided I’m needed. My flowers are needed. Why,

I might have a flower ministry! I could give them

to everyone! Some caskets at the funeral home have

no flowers. People need flowers at times like that

and I have lots of them. They’re all over the

backyard! I can give them to hospitals, churches –

all sorts of places. You know what I’m going to do?

I’m going to serve the Lord until the day He calls

me home!’

I drove back to the church, filled with wonder. On

Patsy’s wedding day, if anyone had asked me to

encourage someone who was hurting, I would have

said, ‘Forget it! It’s my only daughter’s wedding,

for goodness’ sake! There is no way I can minister

to anyone today.’

But God found a way. Through dead flowers.

‘Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the

way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes

the difference.’

Lessons in the Storm

We had a storm with very strong winds in our area this past week. As I watched the winds blow the trees around before the rain came, some random thoughts came to mind.

I first noticed the storm coming in, because of the movement of the trees in the backyard. The wind was blowing harder than I had seen it blow in some time. Also, the trees were bending back and forth, which we don’t see very often. I saw that we already had a broken limb that had come out of our maple tree, and was hung up on a limb on a nearby pine tree. That pine tree is about 60 feet tall, and the top 20 feet or so was swaying back and forth about 45 degrees from vertical each way.

The trees fascinated me. That a large pine tree could bend so far and not break amazed me. And yet, the maple tree already had a broken branch. It reminded me that I can bend with the winds of life, or I can break. But, how do I make sure I am bending, and not breaking?

Pine trees like to grow straight. I also have a direction that I like to grow. It may be a particular way of life or standard of living. It may be a church or ministry in which I have invested my time and talents. Whatever it is, I certainly don’t enjoy it when the winds of a storm blow me away from that direction.

If I refuse to bend, like the brittle maple branch, I am in danger of breaking. However, if I give up my pre-conceived notions about my life and bend with the winds, I can survive the storm unbroken. When the storm was over, the pine tree continued to grow straight. Many times after the storms in my life, I have been able to continue growing in the direction that I started.

However, even when I believe I have bent, a storm has permanently changed the direction of my life. I trust that these new directions are where God wants my life to go next. I think part of the bending process is the willingness to stay bent. For me, the hardest part is not knowing whether the bending is temporary or permanent. I struggle to trust God that He knows how much bending that I can handle before I break.

And sometimes I have broken. But thankfully, God is faithful to repair the damage like an expert arborist. Like the maple with the broken branch, I will always bear the scars of the breaks. However, like the maple I will continue to grow and flourish. Unlike the maple, I can learn and change, and become better at bending in the further.