Willing to be Fragrant — or Not

“There is something very mysterious about perfume. No one can describe it. You cannot take a photograph of it. You cannot weigh it. Yet it is a very essential quality of the flower. The same is true of that strange thing we call influence. Influence is the aroma of a life. This is really all of you that counts in its final impression upon other lives. No matter how a man may pose, that which he really is, is what breathes out from his life wherever he is known, that which his name suggests to people whenever it is spoken. Every Christian life ought to be fragrant. But there is only one way to make it so. Our influence, the perfume of our lives, is gathered from all the acres of our years  — all that has grown upon those acres during all those years. We live our life in this world, and then cease to be. The things we have done, the words we have spoken, the influences we have sent out, all have taken their place in other lives, and have been built into them like blocks of stone on the wall of a building.”
~ J. R. Miller, 1904

Last year, because of tight finances and time, (all those medical issues for Scott post-cancer, and then the kids), Scott and I never managed to celebrate our birthdays (mine in June, and his in November). Honestly, it almost killed me just to make sure each of the kids had birthday celebrations, so we didn’t even attempt ours.

Through the months, we watched a new Cooper’s Hawk restaurant being built close to our house, and would say, “Maybe someday, we’ll do a really special dinner there one night as a late birthday celebration for both of us.”

The restaurant was eventually finished, but those medical issues just kept coming, and money stayed tight.

Then suddenly things settled down a bit medically, and someone sent us a gift. We decided to take part of this gift and make reservations at this restaurant. We chose Thursday night, March 23,  for this special outing. Unfortunately before we got to that point, some unexpected expenses hit, and the gift we had gotten wasn’t stretching quite as far as we had hoped it would. In the end, however, we decided to keep our plans, praying we weren’t being stupidly irresponsible with this gift. So that night, we went to dinner.

We didn’t order the most expensive things on the menu, but we did order, along with our entrees, an appetizer, some wine, and even a dessert to share. This is extravagant for us.

Before dinner, though . . .

It’s rare that we ever go out anywhere without God bringing an opportunity for us to share our story with someone. As I’ve said before, we so often come away from these encounters feeling like we were the ones blessed. I know in my heart that God is continually guiding all our steps. I firmly believe that no encounter is a chance encounter, and that we need to go through life with our eyes and hearts open, seeing every intersecting of paths as a possible Divine appointment. We know that our family is called to live a somewhat public life, and that our “job” of trying to raise awareness for orphans is pretty much a 24/7 kind of a job.

But that evening, I felt tired and like I just wanted this time between the two of us to be private. I felt like I wanted to just be invisible and look inward; not outward. Selfishly, I didn’t want to find the energy to end up in a conversation about adoption or special needs or large families. So, on the way to the restaurant that evening, I said to Scott, “Let’s just be anonymous tonight and not tell our story to anyone; let’s not be those people with a ton of kids tonight and not even tell anyone we are celebrating our birthdays.” Scott agreed, and we were ready to start our quiet, special evening together.

We arrived a little bit early for our reservation, and our hostess, who introduced herself as Robin, took us right to our table and seated us. While I wanted to remain secluded and anonymous, I also did want to document our evening out, so I asked if she would take a picture of the two of us. She readily agreed, and when she finished, she apologized that she had taken several pictures, explaining that she just automatically clicks many times anytime she takes pictures because she’s used to taking pictures of her 24-year-old  daughter with special needs.

(Really, God? You’re trying to say something here, aren’t you?)

Of course, that struck my heart and started a conversation as I asked about her daughter. Her love and pride for this older daughter who functions at a very young child’s level was so clear as she told us that this special one actually dances hip-hop. I couldn’t help it; I also wanted to share a bit about our kids. And we were off as we each shared our mother-hearts, until a short version of our whole story was out there — even the fact that we were celebrating our 2016 birthdays together that night because life had prevented us from doing that last year. She moved on to do her work after that short but packed conversation, and Scott and I settled into our meal.

Cooper's Hawk - Late B'day 2016 Celebrations #1

Happy 2016 Birthdays to us!

Cooper's Hawk - Late B'day 2016 Celebrations #5

Cooper's Hawk - Late B'day 2016 Celebrations #6
Cooper's Hawk - Late B'day 2016 Celebrations #3
It was an awesome evening, with no other interruptions, and a warm feeling in my heart over this little bond we shared with the hostess. When it was time for our dessert, they brought it with a candle for each of us, which was sweet and not unexpected since we had ended up telling them we were celebrating birthdays.
Cooper's Hawk - Late B'day 2016 Celebrations #4

At the end of the meal when our server brought our check, though, the hostess who had seated us and the manager came with her. The manager told us (and I’m sure I saw a tear or two in her eyes), that the kitchen staff  was talking about our story and that the servers had now heard it. And that she wouldn’t let us pay for any of the meal!

She said that Cooper’s Hawk likes to choose locations where they can somehow touch the communities around them and celebrate and encourage families. And they felt like this was a great way for them to do this.

We really were completely blown away. We’ve had places comp dessert, or even wine one time, but never an entire meal in a nice restaurant like this!

She asked if we would email her a family picture for them to hang in the kitchen as a reminder of what they are about and thanked us for letting them do this for us. They did agree to let us leave a tip for our sweet server.

Even after all of the times that God has done things like this, it still amazes us every time.

Sometimes, we are asked to be fragrant to the world in a way that leaves us empty and drained and panting for refueling — although somehow also filled-up because we know we are allowing the Author of our story to use us for His own purposes.

And other times, He asks us to be fragrant to the world because He has a blessing waiting for us. Because He just wants to kiss us gently and Fatherly on the top of our heads and say, “I love you; I’m still here; I won’t ever leave you to do my work alone.”