Lessons from A Lilac Bush

Today is the last day of my thirtieth year of life. It's been a really good year. A really hard year in many aspects, but sometimes hard can be the really good kind of hard. The stretching, growing, maturing (yet still exhausting) kind of hard. People have always told me that when you hit your thirties you kind of start to really settle into 'you'; I get it now, and I fully agree. I've always been pretty headstrong and confident in my choices, but this year has brought a whole new kind of awareness to the why and how behind my choices and opinions, and I like that. 

I took this picture of our lilac bush the other day. I walk by it and literally stop to smell the flowers at least three times a day. At least. Why? Because we planted this bush 6 years ago, as a little twig; it literally looked like a stick. For the first two years I almost pulled it up, but decided every year to just wait and see what happened. Little by little, it grew. And grew and grew until last year it was taller than me, but still no blooms. Then this year. I walked out one day a couple of weeks ago and there were tiny little purple buds! There are now big, luscious-smelling blossoms, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to enjoy the heck out of smelling those flowers every day that they're there. That bush has reminded me of some of the things I've learned over the past thirty years, so I thought I'd share them here.

  • Beauty takes time. It may appear hopeless at first, tired, dead. But it may just be dormant...it's worth waiting for it to bloom. It's always worth waiting for.
  • Beauty is unexpected. It doesn't always come in the way you think it will, or in the time you think it should. It unfolds at it's own God-ordained pace, which is always the best pace.
  • Beauty can come from ugly, hard things. A dead-looking stick that is covered in bumps and brown and dry doesn't give one much expectancy. But given time, given patience, given eyes to really see it with...it can transform into something more beautiful than you could have dreamed.
  • Beauty isn't always big and flashy. It doesn't always parade itself around and say 'Hey! Look at me!' It oftentimes - most of the time, really - comes in the form of small buds. Slight green shoots that breath whispers of hope and life. We miss them easily, but if we slow down and stop hurrying, they're there, waiting for us to see.
  • Don't stop living while you're waiting for beauty. Look for it in other places, not just the place where you're longing for it to appear. The more you look for it, the more beauty you'll see, and the more you'll expect to see it, even in the ugly and hard places.
  • Take your time. Just like a bush that takes years to mature, so do we. It's OK to not have it all figured out right now, or tomorrow, or two years from now. You'll figure it out when it's time, and it will be just the way it needs to be, when you stop and look back on the growing period.
  • Bloom in your own way, not in the way others expect you to. Half of my lilac bush is covered in blooms; the other half is mostly just leaves. But that's cool, because it's beautiful the way it is, and if it bloomed perfectly symmetrically, it would lose some of it's wild beauty. Same goes for us. God made us individual for a reason, and even if we have the same talents or same interests as another person, we function in our own way, develop in our own time. And it's wildly beautiful.
  • Don't be afraid to change. 5 years ago I would never have thought I'd be a stay at home mom/writer. Nope. I thought I would be doing something in the political realm of the world of disability advocacy. And there's nothing to say I won't do that someday. But where I am right now is exactly where I want to be, even though there were (and still are!) definitely growing pains in the process.
  • Put time and effort into cultivating what makes you come alive. Don't start watering the flower next to you if you're not firmly planted, because eventually you'll start dying off and neither of you will thrive. It's OK to say no. It's OK to invest in a few, close relationships. Your impact may still be large, or it could be small, but whatever it is, make sure you're firmly rooted.

Gosh, I feel like I could keep writing. Who knew you could learn so much from one plant?! Thirty, you've been good to me, and I'm looking forward to this decade of life.

Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers.