Monday, November 17, 2014

When You Want Your Life To Be A Sweet Aroma

On one shelf, glass bottles of expensive perfume crowd together. 

Just looking at the rows of artfully contoured containers, you would think I am obsessed with the aroma of musky floral and pungent citrus scents.

The truth is, they were all a gift to me.

One friend, who adored good perfume and high-heeled shoes, purchased them all.

She was one of the first women to call me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Just a few years before, she had suffered through surgeries, treatments and complications herself. In light of my own diagnoses being so fresh, the shock of the news still hung heavy on my heart. This cancer-veteran spoke with brutal honesty of the road that stretched out ahead of me.

I was unprepared for the insight being offered. It was the final stroke that crushed my teetering emotions.

After that conversation I retreated to my office with a box of tissues and came undone. There is just no consoling a woman who is overcome with fear and for a few minutes has displaced her hope.

As my cancer journey unfolded this friend had her second cancer diagnoses delivered.

She battled long. She fought hard.

After her death, a box of clattering glass bottles were delivered to me as a gift.

It has been an odd journey to be the beneficiary of these vials. It's as if I was entrusted with the incense of her life.

I’m a woman who keeps things pretty simple. 

I have one ring, a few pairs of earrings that I wear and one type of perfume that I deeply enjoy. 

These past few years I have often paused to spritz one of the sweet bouquets into the air. Her apparent favorite was Mariella Burani. There are multiple bottles of it. The container is made of thick rectangular shaped glass, topped with a cap of red-orange resin roses.  The fragrance, to me, has a vanilla-orange that co-mingles with a musky rose scent.

For a fleeting moment, its almost as if I can capture a vapor of my friend and the life she lived. The drifting scent is reminiscent of her sparkle and spunk. Once again I can see her clear blue eyes and thick wavy blond hair that bounced when she laughed. The essence of flowers starts off a little bold like her personality and then as it settles in, a genuine warmth and authenticity linger.

I savor it until it fades.

And fade it does.

All of our lives are like that.  

The Bible says it like this:

" do not even know what will happen tomorrow. 

What is your life? 

You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

James 4:14

Of course when you are young, that seems like a vague statement that applies to older or at least other people. It's hard in the today-of-life to realize there are no promises about our tomorrows. And I don't want to focus on writing an obituary yet, however we are giving off an aroma of something with our lives and leaving a lingering impact of some kind.

My deepest desire is to leave a light scent of heaven in the wake of my life.

As I contemplate and celebrate the life of my friend, I realize that no perfume can embody her courage, perseverance and deep dignity with which she passed through the thin veil of this life into eternity.

The word fragrance has beautiful poignant meaning. 

According to the Webster 1928 Dictionary, the root of that word is from the Arabic, meaning to reach, or stretch. I think that adds a layer of depth to the whole concept of smell. Aroma is something that reaches farther than the place it originated. It has movement and impact reaching beyond the five senses and touches something much deeper. 

Something spiritual. 

Something eternal. 

In the crushing and the breaking is where the fragrance is released. 

I don’t need bottles of high priced cologne crafted by chemists, to remember the life of this woman. She lived a life that gave off a sweet aroma and a lasting impression.

Her real fragrance came from the inside, from her very soul.

While the advertising world speaks of the power of a fragrance to be able to create an atmosphere of allurement, to be provocative, exotic, uplifting, intoxicating, grounding, calming -all in the same sentence- I find myself drawn to the aroma of one life well lived.

One life filled with sincere faith, hands lifted high in honest praise and a heart surrendered to Christ. That is where there is peace, hope and the promise of eternity in heaven.

Everything else will fade.

Linking up here:

Monday, November 10, 2014

When You Are Preoccupied With Your Own Life

The song by Matthew West, “Do Something,” pulsed through my car speakers as I dug intently through my tousled mess of a purse. I was looking for the bank card I had haphazardly thrown into the heap at my last stop.  This only added to my frustration. I had been running late all morning. Late to pull myself out of bed, late to my first, second and third appointment. Now, I found myself sitting at a gas station, in a part of town I rarely go, thinking it would have been a good idea to get gasoline when the “forty-seven miles to empty,” warning came on, forty seven miles ago. The digital warning on my car no longer blinked red, it stayed solid while making a harsh alarming noise to announce there were no more options until fuel was added.

Once I finally located the card I turned the key off and began to exit my car. That is when the sound of people screaming jolted me out of my little world of procrastination.

In the gas station island next to me a man and woman were in a confrontation. They flung their arms and angry words as if no one else were around to witness it.

I decided this would be a good time to leave.

And leave I would have, except that my putting things off, had left me in a situation, with no choice but to wait. 

So I made sure the door was locked and acted preoccupied.

For a few moments they took their conflict to the other side of their van so I glanced over to evaluate the situation a little more closely. Inside their older multicolored vehicle, sat two adolescent aged children staring straight ahead.

A small amount of compassion seeped into my heart. I continued to look busy. Surely they would move on soon.

That is when this ridiculous thought came into my head. “Ask her if you can help.”

It was an unwelcome idea that I dismissed immediately as I preached to myself about not getting gas yesterday, or waking up earlier today or being more organized any day.

I glanced over at the ongoing confrontation.

Again I felt the simple prompt. “Ask her if you can help.”

It was not an audible voice but it was a persistent, uncomplicated thought in my mind to which I responded out loud, “No!”

Nothing about this could made sense. When has it ever been a good idea to walk up to a stranger who is involved in an escalating fight and introduce yourself?


But soon, I found myself getting out, slowly going through the motions of getting gas, muttering a prayer for help and the how-to, when the enraged woman came to the side near where I stood. In one crazy burst of faith, I touched her arm and stammered, “Is…. is... there something I can do to help you?”

The woman spun around and to my relief dropped her arms as if to surrender and began to pour out their story.

They had given the clerk $20 for gas, started the gas pump and gotten back into the van since it was cold, to wait for the pump to stop. Usually the clerk would set the pump to turn off for the amount pre-paid, but that had not happened and they now owed an addition $60 which they did not have. The argument had escalated as the cashier was threatening to call the police and the man and woman were blaming each other for having no options with which to pay the extra money.  

I glanced at the wide-eyed children in the van.  I turned back to the woman and without even giving it a thought, I asked her if it would be okay if I took care of the difference. Her face softened in disbelief. The man continued to fling angry words. She burst into tears and we hugged.  

Inside, the clerk was in a foul mood in light of the conflict. She waved her finger to an ATM machine and told me I would have to have cash, that she would not take my debit or credit card. I fumbled to operate the machine. My adrenalin was running high and I had never used a machine like it. Peering around the edge, I could see the man and woman pacing in front of their van.

Squinting to focus, I read through the process again.  This time the machine kicked out the necessary amount of cash. I turned back to the cashier, who coldly snapped the money from my fingers and did not look up or say thank you.

It was almost comical at this point how things were playing out. I was wondering how I would explain this to my husband. Plus I mused, this probably wasn't even God telling me to help these people.

I approached the van and the woman.

I told her it was taken care of and I hoped they would have a better day.

She began to thank me, but I looked straight into her eyes and said, “No, don’t thank me. It was Jesus who wanted to bless you.”

As I was walking back to my car, she called to me, “Hey! What church do you go to?”

I was honestly surprised at the question, but everything inside of me came alive. We had a short conversation about the where and when and the come-as-you-are, of the church we attend.

Driving away that day, I replayed the whole unlikely event though my mind and knew that I had just participated in something bigger than me. Somehow in my messy life I was able to shine light into someone’s darkness. Perhaps I was the answer to their child’s breath prayer or maybe Jesus had planned the whole thing to show them that He is real and loves them right where they were.

All I know is that I got to be a few lines in their story that day.

That was two years ago. I have no idea if they ever set foot in the church building, but there is a lot of freedom in knowing that God cares about them enough to bring them help. It wasn't about me being a nice person, but about God Himself being real and tangible in their situation.

I think of them from time to time and when I do I might pray, but mostly I praise God for them.

Moments before I encountered them I was preoccupied with my own life, while jamming to Matthew West as he sang about all the pain in the world around us and how we just settle in to be, “angels of apathy.” Ironically when I was confronted with a need and the opportunity to be part of the answer, I just wanted to lock the door and hide.

They changed my heart and the destiny of my day. They made my small world a little bigger.

It reminds me, that when I follow the Holy Spirits lead, it doesn't always feel safe or even make sense. And when action accompanied my faith by stepping out into the uncomfortable and unknown, it resulted in stirring the smoldering embers of mercy, compassion and unconditional love for people in general and for the God who loves us all right where we are. 

Right in our mess.  

Right now.

What is God asking you to do?

Listen to the song?

Linking up with these lovely ladies:

© Rhonda Quaney