The other day Nick and I was on our latest beaver hunt (that's another story for another day).
As I trekked across the field to get to the little varmint's house in the pond that has been wrecking havoc everywhere, I noticed the field was filled with "Powder Puffs". And I was immediately whisked back to my childhood.
My middle brother Greg was six years older than me. I don't think he ever got over that I came along and bumped him out of the spotlight/ baby status of the family. And he let me know on a regular basis that he didn't like it. Growing up, he took it as his personal mission to make me cry, scream or squeal every day of my life. He was good at it too. He could pinch me in the back seat without moving a single muscle. Mom could never catch him in the act through her rear view mirror eagle eye.
But in the midst of his mission to make me cry, he would have these great moments of big brotherly tenderness. They didn't happen often but each and every one of them are etched in my heart and treasured. From the ring he got me out of the prize box at Dr. Magruder's dentist office that one time, to the secret chant we'd say together as we jumped over the burning leaf pile on family clean up days. To this day I can't smell leaves burning without saying "Smoke a ga ga" in my head with a big grin on my face.
And then there were the powder puffs.
Some of you may know them as thistles.
They're basically weeds. A pain in the butt you don't want growing in your yard.
The leaves are the pokiest things you ever touched and you don't want to fall on top of one. Ever.
But in the center grows the softest flower you've ever felt.
And every now and then Greg would cut the flower off with his pocket knife and bring me one.
He told me it was a powder puff and I thought they were magical. And the prettiest "flower" I had ever seen. I would pat them on my face and pretend I was "freshening up" like I would see my momma doing in the bathroom right before my daddy came home from work each day.
Such a wonderful memory…those powder puffs.
And it got me thinking about a couple of things.
That because of Jesus, as a child of God, there is always a beautiful powder puff in the middle of the thistle. There are things in this life that hurts. We will go through some cruddy stuff that pokes us and we usually see them as weeds…as ugly things we want to get rid off and pull up out of our lives. We want to keep our days neat and tidy like a well kept garden. But sometimes it's those very thistles that God uses to display His splendor in our lives.
Our thistles look different for each of us but their purpose is all the same….to transform us into the image of Christ.
And I love that our great Creator didn't just make the poky leaves that hurt when touched and leave it at that…right in the center of these painful thorns, He put this beautiful soft flower. Like a reminder of His grace that is always there in our lives…His grace that is sufficient.
It is enough.
Yes, I'm thankful for the thistles God allows to pop up in my life.
And I'm thankful for a big brother who taught me a life lesson that I have held onto my entire life even though he had no idea he did that for me. Because of him, I have grown up seeing these pesky weeds as a beautiful flower.
They will forever be a powder puff to me.
Never a thistle.
"We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Greg was in an accident in 2004. He was only 39.
I miss those big bear hugs of his.