Giving Up

Returning to my vehicle following an early morning parent-teacher conference, I settled into the seat of my car. My glance fell upon the gearshift where a perfectly folded piece of notebook paper was perched, “Mommy” written in flowing script. Unfolding this surprise communication, I found a beautiful wish of goodwill, expressed by my youngest daughter.

A morning of nerves ensued. My college age son, Grant, lent his opinion on the flurry of blouses I tried on with my interview outfit. He remarked he had never seen me quite like this, as I stress cleaned and polished various pieces of silver jewelry in my quest for the perfect accessories to complement a suit jacket.

He found my nervous anticipation something to behold. These familial interactions were on my mind as I drove to my interview. Seeking a position at a local college as an Adjunct Faculty member was the desired outcome of my scheduled appointment. The interview went smoothly, and I felt at ease with the questions that were posed. I was told that other interviews were scheduled, but a decision would be made by day’s end.  

Late afternoon found me snuggled under a quilt in my youngest daughter’s room, visiting with her as she played. The phone was tucked near in case it might soon communicate good news. Grant came home from work, asking if I’d heard any news. I had not. 

Darbi, my older daughter already back at her university, called to inquire about the interview. I quickly answered her queries, desiring to keep the line free. I thought to check my email as the business day was nearing its end, as I had originally been contacted in this manner. In my inbox was an offer of employment. Stunned, I thanked the Lord for a new opportunity.

My husband arrived home from work and walked into Paige’s room, a large bouquet of flowers in hand. He presented them to me, not yet knowing the outcome. Wearing a large smile, he enthused, “Good job on your interview!” 

I was touched.  These flowers were a surprise and a very thoughtful gesture. 

I have struggled through a few years of feeling virtually invisible within my own family. At times feeling both unseen and unheard as a person, I feel valued only for the needs I continuously meet for others. I have tried to express my hopes, desires, and goals, but I am not often met with understanding or support.

Rather my spouse is often puzzled as to why I might wish to pursue things that will change the status quo, and I am often accused of not desiring to support our children. This is not the case. The question is raised, “What about them?”

I can try to explain to one who does not hear me very well. My heart cries out, “What about me?” I despair, drowning in the indifference. I long to know that I am not insignificant, and neither are my ambitions.

The flowers stirred emotions. I hold them in my lap for an hour. I do not let them go.

Finally, finished with my reverie and my prayer, I made my way downstairs, knowing that a meal was needing to be prepared; I should give my thirsty flowers a drink.

As I snipped stems and arranged them in a vase, I reflected that these once living, growing and thriving plants gave up their life to become a gift of beauty. Ah. Like Jesus, the giving up was the sacrifice that made His gift beautiful.

The ache of what had been given up, said “no” to in order to say “yes” to supporting my husband, to meeting the needs of my family through moves, differing stages of life, and through health crises was blooming in my heart. The willing sacrifice and decisions made on my part had been a beautiful gift to my family. The Lord saw and honored this, even if others failed to understand. 

Presently, it was time to cultivate a different part of the garden. The Lord’s gift, His acceptance of my sacrifice, was returned to me as a new opportunity. I thanked Him for this newest venture, a chance to once again teach those adults from around the world who desired to learn English. I fondly recalled my last classroom in Minnesota and one vivid scene stood apart.

One May, in the midst of teaching an English lesson, a knock was heard upon my classroom door. Students diverted their attention to a large vase of red roses that entered, in the hands of my coworker. She presented them to me. The lesson temporarily halted as I placed them upon my desk and curiously read the card.

Written in my husband’s hand were warm wishes for our anniversary. What a surprise! In 13 years of teaching, he had never before sent me flowers at school. The lesson ensued, and my students started laughing. Becoming distracted by my surreptitious glance at the vase of roses, I had temporarily forgotten my next point.

I blushed, shrugging my shoulders, both embarrassed by my distraction and proud of the reason behind it. “From my husband, for our wedding anniversary,” I explained to a sea of shining faces, originally hailing from all parts of the globe. Love is a universal language, and they understood.

Returning home after school that day, I picked up my four children from their various schools and daycare. I placed a call to my husband who was continuously out of town, traveling for business and our family’s provision. I thanked him for the flowers. As I wished him a Happy Anniversary, I shared with him my surprise upon their delivery to my classroom.

The conversation turned to my student teaching days and my mentor teacher often receiving flowers from her husband for no reason at all. He reminded me that I had mentioned back when that I’d like him to do that, send flowers to me at school.  

My husband had heard me, all those long years ago; and perhaps, he truly had been listening more recently.

Whatever his flowers intended, what I understood from his language was perfectly clear. Love is a universal language, one that aids both understanding and being understood. I’m not clear how exactly, but an act of love, this gift of flowers, spoke the universal language of understanding from both my Lord and my husband. My heart understood; I no longer felt invisible, but completely, visibly surrounded by love and hope of new things to come.

Copyright 2020 Bonnie Shaw

Bonnie Shaw is wife to Chris, mother of four perpetually hungry offspring, and in continual anticipation of summer and hot weather. An educator by degree and lifelong learner by habit, she consumes stacks of books, inhabiting both her imagination and contemplation as she seeks connection with truth, ideas, and the laughter of friends traveling the same road. In relentless pursuit of more perfectly trusting in the Lord’s divine mercy, she is so very thankful for His grace and the peace and shelter of His presence as well as the example of others who love Him.