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My Heart Bouquet

When my daughter Hope was in the second grade, she started bringing me wildflowers from the school playground. Every afternoon, smiling proudly, she would run to the car, a tiny, purple wildflower pinched delicately between her thumb and forefinger.

“For you, Mommy!” she always announced as she climbed into the backseat. As soon as we got home, we always put the tiny blossoms in a cup of water. However, as wildflowers tend to do, thy almost always died by morning, putting a damper on Hope’s spirits.

After a few weeks of this routine, I told Hope that she didn’t have to pick the flowers to give them to me. I told her that she could find one she liked at recess and then point it out to me when I picked her up. I promised to collect them into a bouquet in my heart that wouldn’t ever die. Reluctantly, she agreed.

That summer was our first to spend on grounds at Falls Creek youth camp in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma. I’ll never forget the look on Hope’s face as we wound our way around the mountain on the high road into camp. “Look, Mommy!” she said, pointing to the wildflowers that covered the otherwise rocky landscape. I smiled. The cacti were in bloom, the dandelions were plentiful, and tall, dry stalks shot out from between the rocks, topped by purple flowers that looked that suspended firework explosions.

“Those are pretty, Mommy,” Hope almost squealed. “I’ll get you some of those.”

I reminded her that she didn’t have to pick them to give them to me. When she discovered that the cactus blooms came with sharp needles and that the stems of the purple flowers oozed sticky, milky goo, she was glad not to pick them and embraced the idea of a heart bouquet with new enthusiasm.

That was a fun summer. Looking for flowers to add to my heart bouquet became a sort of quest for the two of us. Every time we found a new kind of flower, Hope would point triumphantly. “That one’s yours,” she would announce with a smile. By the end of the summer, my heart bouquet was huge, full of cactus blooms, dandelions, crepe myrtle blossoms, baby’s breath, and other flowers that we didn’t know the names for.

The funny thing about my heart bouquet is this. After all of these years, I can still see it clearly in my mind. What’s more, I can also see the sweet, soft face of my beautiful thirteen-year-old daughter as the exuberant, carefree, tender-hearted second grader she once was. I can hear the excitement in her voice as she points out wildflowers and feel the heat of her summer-flush cheeks against mine as I hug my thanks before we continue our walk. The memory makes my heart squeeze and my eyes sting. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to live that summer—or just one day in it—with my little girl again.

I was thinking about my heart bouquet as Todd and I drove around Falls Creek today. Everywhere we looked, kids were getting along, having fun, and proclaiming their faith easily. “Jesus loves you!” we were told at least a dozen times as we passed group after group of happy, T-shirt wearing teenagers. We visited the Icee Hut, Boulder Springs, and other land marks before passing the cabin that I used to stay in as a teenager. In that moment, it wasn’t hard to imagine myself thirteen again, discovering for the first time that God had an amazing plan for my life that required my full surrender; sixteen, struggling to make “level paths” for my feet; or eighteen, resolved to let God lead my heart where He would, whatever the cost.

It’s no wonder that so many adults have such precious memories of church camp, some so vivid that they squeeze their hearts and cause their eyes to sting. Just as kids still do, those adults once went to church camp open to the prospect of meeting with God, eager to experience something brand new, and willing to receive Truth with the power to change their lives forever. Without pretense or thought to consequence, they gave themselves over to His grace and mercy and experienced in that moment true intimacy with the Creator of the Universe. That doesn’t happen every day, you know. But it should.

I can’t help wondering what would happen if we approached every day the way we used to approach a week at church camp when we were kids, open, eager, and willing to experience God without pretense or thought to consequence. What if we made a habit of looking for His activity in our lives and then lived our lives in worshipful response? Personally, I think that we would find ourselves with a heart bouquet of significant moments with God so big, beautiful, and fragrant that we would never again be tempted to let it die.

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