It’s been years since I wore perfume.
Decades, actually. I was never super heavy-handed with fragrance, but I wore my fair share of Love’s Baby Soft like every other young girl in the late 1970’s, even if it was “borrowed” from my older sister’s hidden stash. I memorized with razor sharp detail the arrangement of contents in her sacred blue Tupperware box before disturbing the treasures by gently removing the pink baby-powder scented bottle as I helped myself to a few sacred drops of the magic “big girl” elixir.
My fragrance of choice during the few minutes in the mid-80’s when I was an official grown-up and before actual babies took over, was none other than Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel. Like my choice in music, it was classified as “refreshing, and flowery, accompanied by white floral notes of gardenia, jasmine and lily of the valley.”
From then until now, I depend on the simple and unfussy mom-fragrance of TRESemmé Shampoo and Lever 2000. There’s no shame in real life.
A few weeks ago, I was struck with the sudden desire to wear perfume to the wedding of one of my dearest friend’s son. My heart was rejoicing hard as we prepared to celebrate the new journey of this precious boy who ran with my tribe of littles back in the Salad Days. He was the sweetest little guy whose eyes would literally disappear in his freckled face when he smiled, which was often. He was easy and breezy and gentle like a quiet summer day, never wanting to be the center of attention, and he was now ready to stand in front of us all and take the first steps as a family of his own.
The day before the big day, I bought a new dress and decided to go the extra mile with a hint of perfume. Nothing fancy or outlandish, but a step or two above my comfortable, sensible and very trustworthy shampoo+soap duo.
As I walked through the mall, I stumbled upon a familiar, but never visited, fragrance counter and picked up the smallest sample of some-super-extravagant-fragrance-folded-in-a-credit-card-sized-booklet. They sat in a bowl, like Halloween candy for moms, free for the taking.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider Who even goes to the mall anymore? Apparently, me.
As I sampled the samples, I came to the realization that expensive perfume is staggering. I honestly had no idea. It’s refreshing and delicate and comforting, without a heavy-handed flower in sight. It’s emotional and familiar. I was not prepared for the beauty available for only a few bazillion dollars.
Perfume samples are created for someone who wants to date .04 ounces of the scent, but not necessarily commit to marrying it. I didn’t want either. I merely wanted a single evening of lovely.
As I walked away from the counter pleased with my itty-bitty treasure, I was immediately reminded of the woman from Bethany in Mark 14 and her “beautiful thing” of breaking her alabaster flask of costly perfume and pouring it over the head of Jesus. “She did what she could,” Jesus described, as he took the fragrance with him all the way to the cross.
For the first time, it occurred to me that she could have presented him the container of perfume as a costly, precious sacrifice, but it was the breaking that released the fragrance. It was the breaking and pouring out that rendered her gift extravagant.
In 1996, I remember sitting at a piano, leading worship for a beautiful women’s event at my church, providing a backdrop as the women lingered for personal ministry at the end of the event, and just as I was about to head home to my young babies, the guest speaker asked if she could give me a prophetic word.
She said she saw pages spilling out of me. She made a motion like she was pulling a roll of paper towels out of my belly, like a dispenser in a public restroom, as she described page after page pouring out of me. I blinked. And then blinked again, careful to receive her word with humility and an open heart, all the while knowing I was writing exactly ZERO pages of… well, anything.
Fast forward to 2018 and the first time I held actual pages in my hand from my very own published book, Lost & Found: A Prodigal’s Journey Home.
For those of you who get anxious about prophetic words not coming to pass, or feel pressured by them, or out of sorts because of timing… don’t. God is not anxious or hurried. If it’s real, there is no need to fret.
22 years after her prophetic word, pages were spilling out of me.
Like the woman at Bethany, the spilling out was costly and precious and fragrant. The pages were inside me, but it took the breaking to release my voice. Without the painful experience of waiting for my son, I would never have written a page. The pouring out allowed me to house more of Him and to serve him in a different way.
I now realize we’ve all been fractured. There’s pain in the fracturing, but there’s a voice inside the pain which is beautiful to the Lord. Out of our brokenness comes something beautiful.
When a vessel is broken, a fragrance is released.
The pages were birthed through a life-altering journey I walked with my oldest son. I wrote this story with a desire to underexpose my son, like the cinematographer shot Vito in the Godfather. I strove for a restrained realism on the gritty details. At the same time, I wrote with a desire to magnify the love of Jesus and my desire to see him found in our hearts.
The spilling out was God inviting me to live my life exposed, abandoned, raw, unfiltered and utterly held by His breathtaking presence.
The banner over each page is love.
In each page, I discovered the thoughtful, compassionate and truthful voice of the Spirit.
I allowed the breaking to cultivate the Spirit’s fruit in my life. I experienced my best rhythm of grace and a new measure of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as I wrestled with the losing and finding of my identity and purpose in community.
Not all pain and breaking produces fruit. The funny thing about pain is it can often keep usfrom progression, because the enemy wants to use it to bind us.
Each page contains my heart’s desire to come alongside families who are facing insurmountable odds, pointing the steadfast focus of their hearts on Jesus. I wrote with a desire to encourage and to throw courage on the weary, waiting hearts of moms and dads who love their sons and daughters.
The pages indeed “poured out” and my only job was to contain them, to articulate the depth of the awe and gratitude in my heart. The bearing witness to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The reward of pushing past the unseen to stay expectant for God to move.
I’ve always understood that most of the important things of life are birthed by getting down in the dirt. Doing the hard work. Down low, where the seeds take root. The Holy Spirit is often most present in the daily (sometimes dirty) grind, but it wasn’t until I held actual pages in my hand that I realized the time spent in low places yielded a garden I could have never imagined.
Our garden grew a little freckled boy and I woke up the morning after his wedding with the slightest hint of my perfume sample lingering in the air. I pushed back tears as I scrolled through my iPhone pics thinking about all the beauty. He stood strong and tall and painfully handsome, faithful beyond our wildest imagination. May he and his new young wife know that God is there. Every single day. May they know the consistency of His Presence and of listening well. May they choose faith and trust to walk out all the days of their lives.
May the fragrance linger.