Speak Eagle

The Beauty of Now

“Come, quickly!”  I follow my mother-in-law out her back door in Wisconsin to a neighboring patio.  On a table sits a cactus, bursting with glorious light pink blooms.  “It only blooms for one day,” she explains. bloomingcactus

“How incredible that we happened to be here for this one day!” I peer into the delicate centers framed with wispy cilia and drink in the fragrance.  The petals are tissue-paper-thin and tipped with darker pink by the Master Artist.

I stay gazing as long as possible until one of my little boys begs me to play football.  I try very hard to throw a spiral, but he still says he prefers to play with Daddy.  Sigh.

By evening, the blooms have wilted, the splendor of morning now just a memory.  I’m sad.  Why would God only let this cactus bloom for one day?  Why not 2 days or a week, or 3 months- or every day of the year, for that matter?  It seems so short-lived, such effort for a plant to collect nutrients, create buds, expend energy for the beauty of one short day.

I wanted more.  I wanted different.  I thought more about the 364 days of no blooms than the 1 day of blooms.

But then, maybe that’s my mentality.

I recall a conversation with my husband after he returned from helping victims of the Haiti earthquake.  He said he had asked one man who had experienced great loss if he was mad at God.  The man said, “No!  Why would I be mad at God?  I am only grateful for my life.”

I sneak out of my in-laws home and walk next door.  I have to meet the owner of this cactus.  I tap on the doorframe tentatively.  “Donna?”

A smiling widow with bright lipstick welcomes me in, shows me photos of her prized cactus.  “Last year,” she says proudly, “it had 36 blooms.”

36.  The number strikes me to the core.  36.

My friends Zach and Sarah Boehm birthed their first child, a son, Samuel Cole, in June.  While Sarah carried him in her womb, they discovered he had Trisomy 18, a disorder that made it improbable that Sarah would carry him full-term, and impossible for him to live outside of her womb.  They never expected to see him alive.

But she did carry him to full-term, treasuring every kick and squirm.  And he was born.  Alive.  Sarah was able to hold him, to nurse him.  Every minute was precious, beautiful.  Zach and Sarah were even able to take their son home.

He lived for 36 hours.  36 hours.  Why?  Why not longer?  Why not 6 months or 60 years?   Why would a mother have to carry a baby for 9 months only to hold him for 36 hours?

I hugged Sarah a few weeks ago, expressed my sadness at the loss of Samuel.  She grieves deeply, understandably.  But she never expected to have any hours with him at all.  And she was given 36.  Her heart is full of gratitude, thankful for every one of those 36.

Zach created a video of their time with Samuel, and I have posted it at the end.

Before I leave Wisconsin to head for home, I’m going to tap on Donna’s doorframe one more time.  She had two starter cactuses on her patio table.  I’m going to ask her for one.  Because I need to bring home the message of the cactus.

We can’t explain God’s ways.  But He asks us to receive what He gives us with gratitude.  And only when we do are we able to receive His most precious gift:  The Beauty of Now.

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