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When the Vase Breaks

June 13, 2011

A friend of mine is going through a very challenging time in her life right now.  It is not a time that will end soon, nor will it gradually “get better.”  This is a time when the challenges will get harder before they get easier.  It is an uphill battle kind of time.

Last week, I sent her words from the ever-so-lovely Ann Voskamp’s blog on “How to Find Your Perfect Weight.”  Ann writes about who to turn to when your scales have been “tipped.”  When the odds stack against us and the negatives outweigh the positives, what then do we do?  To whom shall we turn?  How exactly does one seek God’s beauty when it feels like there is none to be found?  Ann ends with the thought that if we have a vessel, then there is beauty to fill it.  We just have to look.  Her words are a quiet homage to gratitude.

I didn’t say much about the post I sent my friend, and hoped that Ann’s words would help both she and I to seek God’s beauty within these vessels we call our messy lives – even when it’s really hard.  The next day I walk into work, and there is a vase on my desk with 3 beautiful irises standing ready to greet me.  The vase is etched with a flower design, and the irises stand tall and proud at their stem, then delicately let their petals hang.  There is no note, no explanation, no specific evidence of who left this gift.  There is just understanding between my friend and I.  There is an acknowledgment of a common code of thanks.  There is a knowing, if only ever-so-slight, that the vase is sometimes hard to fill.  But we fill it anyway.

The vase sat on my desk for several days.  Every time I looked at the irises, they reminded me of my friend.  They reminded me of beauty.  But one day I had my window open.  I had my window open and the wind came through and before I could reach my desk to protect my flowers, the wind had knocked them down.  The glass shattered.  Water dripped down the side of my metal desk.  The flowers lay on the floor, and my heart lay with it.  I was crushed.  This image of beauty, of friendship, of kinship and understanding had been broken.  The vase broke.

The next day I came into work with one of my own vases from home.  I put one large, single sunflower in it and hoped my dear friend would accept my offering.  I hoped she would know my remorse, my deep deep remorse that her vase broke.  I hoped she would know that her vessel was still full.  I explained what happened, and handed her my vase.  She pushed it back towards me: “Are you serious,” she said, “please keep your vase.  Don’t even worry about the silly thing.  Let’s be grateful – it was 95 degrees that day and there was a breeze!”

And there she was.  My friend – the living embodiment of gratitude, of the beauty that God had given her.  She saw the scales tip and she chose joy.  She chose grace.  Even in the midst of all her trials, she chose thanksgiving for the breeze that knocked her vessel down.  She chose to be like the irises – standing tall and strong, with petals hanging gingerly.

I am grateful the vase broke.  If it had not, I never would have been able to see that it is people, not things, who hold in God’s beauty.  And with subtlety they send it out into the world – like gentle waters.  Like rain on my roof.  Like the fragrance of flowers being carried through the air on a soft summer night.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2011 7:48 pm

    Love this.

  2. June 13, 2011 9:11 pm

    What a beautiful post. So well written, and what a treasure of a friendship.

  3. June 14, 2011 12:04 am

    Absolutely beautiful! What a great friendship.

  4. June 15, 2011 2:32 pm

    this is stunning, lauren. i loved it!!

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