“You look beautiful in ‘lellow,’ Ms. Madelyn.”
She was in my arms, had put her little hands on my face and said it with the deepest sincerity. I chuckled and thanked her, setting her back down on the floor so she could join her other friends playing with baby dolls.
Yellow isn’t my color. I know this because people have told me before that it makes me look washed out. But in the eyes of my preschool student, the washed out skin color was not what she saw first. It wasn’t even the yellow shirt that she really noticed. It was me she saw. Her way of saying, “I love you” was declaring the beauty she saw in my “lellow” shirt.
I watched her go play, no longer thinking about my shirt or the color yellow. But as I stood there, I felt the tender care of my Heavenly Father through the little voice who had called the yellow beautiful. She couldn’t have known how much meaning that little statement carried. He knew though.
It was one of the hardest days of my life, but it didn’t offer time to sit and really process the pain I felt and the loss I’d been dealt. There were things to do and people depending on me to do them. I’d put on the dress, the lipstick, and taken an ibuprofen to help ease the headache you get after crying too hard for too long.
When I walked into the church, she stood there with an apron on and a bouquet of yellow tulips extended towards me. I put my hands out and took them as she pulled me close in a hug. She knew those yellow tulips wouldn’t fix the hurt. She knew those yellow tulips would die in a few days. But that wasn’t the point. She saw me. Her way of saying, “I love you” was offering me a bouquet of yellow tulips.
“It was supposed to be yellow.”
Pulling tissue paper from a bag, I saw the mug. She’d made it by hand with clay. It was beautiful, and on the front was a blue tulip. There was no way she’d known what had happened earlier in the day, no way she saw the secret pain in my heart. No way she could’ve guessed how much that blue tulip that was supposed to be yellow meant to me that day.
On one of her last days available to use the studio at her university to make pottery, she’d taken the time to mold a mug for me with a yellow tulip on the front. The mug turned out entirely blue, and the yellow tulip on the front never really came to be. But that wasn’t the point. She saw me. Her way of saying, “I love you” was offering me a mug with what she’d meant to be a yellow tulip.
“Did you see the tulips?”
Pouring my coffee, I turned around to face my mom who had just come inside. It had been bleak for weeks and flowers were finally starting to emerge, offering us a visual of God’s promise that death will be destroyed. I’d been awake all night fighting the anxiety that cripples me at times, wishing with every fiber of my being that the nightmares would stop. Mom couldn’t know though, I hadn’t even seen her yet that morning.
I followed her outside and she pointed to the fence line. There, rising amidst the frost and seemingly dead grass, were yellow tulips. It was our first spring in this new house, and we had not planted those bulbs. The lady who’d lived here before us is gone now. She never knew me. She never knew my love of tulips or the struggles I face in the dark hours of the night. She had no idea I’d see them when she planted them in her yard.
But that isn’t the point. He knew. The One who causes bulbs to survive winter in the cold depths of soil before their time to bloom arrives in the springtime, saw me. The One who buries me, like the tulips, in the depths to bring about beauty at the end, He is orchestrating all things. The One who knows the deepest pains of my heart, He sent the tulips each time. No one else could’ve truly seen. No one else could’ve known. He has promised that at the end of this cold darkness, there will be life and beauty. He reminds me that the promise is sure and true each time someone brings yellow tulips.
“Where do you want me to plant these?”
He had no idea this morning when he asked that question I’d spent the night before writing this piece on yellow tulips. If that isn’t just like the Lord. I write about Him showing His care for me in the way He has brought yellow tulips in my hardest moments, and then, He brings them again.
I told my Dad I’d like him to plant the bulbs somewhere on our property where I’d have to walk out to see them. He is outside now, planting those bulbs in the soil as the air turns chilly and the crunch of leaves beneath our feet indicates the death of much that was vibrant. Those bulbs will lie in the cold depths for months. Then, when it feels like the bleakness will never lift, from the ground the bulbs will erupt as yellow blossoms. I’ll walk out to where my Dad now sits with a shovel and I’ll see what once was buried now bursts forth in life.
In the end, there will be tulips. They will be beautiful in “lellow” not because the yellow itself is beautiful. They will be beautiful because their vibrant “lellow” points to the One who sustained them, grew them, and raised them up in the end after the winter was over. The One who sees me and loves me has promised this is not how it will always be. One day, the winter will end. The beauty of all that is good and true will prevail.
In the end, there will be beauty. In the meantime, there are whispers of hope, like yellow tulips and toddler voices saying, “You are loved. You are seen. He will hold you fast.”
He will. I know He will.