For S and T
When I was growing up, I loved dandelions. My parents didn’t use chemicals on our yard, so as soon as the ground thawed and a couple spring rains came, dandelion weeds would pop up everywhere. I loved their sunny faces, their tiny lush petals, and the wispy puffs at the end of their life that would carry wishes off on the breeze.
(Once I picked a bunch and tried to sell them like a lemonade business. My mom bought them all up, either as a nod to my entrepreneurial spirit or a desire not to be known around the neighborhood as the weed sellers who lived on the corner. Now the local CSA has dandelion greens as a product, which proves I was just before my time.)
Usually, I’d pluck a bunch and make chains. I’d dig my thumb nails in to split the hollow stems in two, then tie the halves around the bloom of another flower, over and over. It was messy work, dandelion juice seeping out of the fibers. Sometimes I’d accidentally brush my hands to my lips and taste the bitterness. But at the end, I’d have a garland, a necklace, a crown.
I have a friend who blog is Blooming Joy. The subtitle reads “Finding the joy springing up out of the dirt.” In my head, I’ve always envisioned tiny seedlings in carefully edged gardens, rising up from tilled soil to burst into bloom. Today I’m thinking of those dandelions, leaves jagged like the jaws of their predator namesakes, pushing up and out in unexpected places.
My friend’s had her share of weeds. Stephanie and her husband Travis have dealt with some excruciatingly painful events invading like dandelions, unwanted and unexpected. They parented their infant daughter through health, illness, terminal diagnosis, and death. They carry wounds that are healing but not yet scars, that maybe never will be completely. They have experienced deep grief and sadness, but they’ve handled it all with such strength and love and honesty. They are not sad people; they are people of joy.
I appreciate their joy. It’s not greeting-card joy, born out of tidy platitudes that reduce life to simple sentiments. It’s faith-joy, joy that can stand even against the unanswered questions. It’s faith that God is not dead, that Christ’s absence from the tomb means God’s presence with us always, even in the shadow of the valley of death, even beyond. It’s faith in a Christ who, in the midst of his own suffering, knew there was still joy set before him.
They know, too – there’s joy still coming.
Joy rooted in faith doesn’t stop when we’re split open and hollow, when the bitterness is strong enough to taste, when our breaths exhale wispy prayers that fade into the sky. Faith-joy holds it all up to God, the bitterness and the blooms together, trusting that he will weave them into crowns of life.