I returned home from a run this past weekend sweaty and thirsty and was handed a fistful of white flowers and oversized leaves.
“We’re making a flower crown, Daddy.”
My wife grinned and slipped into the house to take a call. I was left on parental duty, still sweaty, still thirsty and now holding a hodgepodge of plant pieces collected from the parking lot behind our house.
“How do we do that?” I asked. I shepherded my two girls out of the alleyway and onto our small patio.
“You tie the flowers together,” my four-year-old replied, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Don’t forget the leaves.” I nodded, embarrassed by the very suggestion. As if I would.
I sat down at the small, round table, still struggling to catch my breath, still sticky and gross, and assessed the pile of flowers. A moment later, my two-year-old fell off the chair she’d climbed on to. She cried, smiled and I set her upright. Then I returned to my project.
It turns out, my four-year-old has just as little know-how when it comes to designing a flower crown as I do. She just speaks with more confidence.
“We need a vine,” I said, finally, looking at the array of broken flower stems at my feet from my poor attempts at tying flower knots. My four-year-old nodded, though she was distracted by her younger sister and a beach ball.
I cut a portion of our overly ambitious cucumber plant, tied the ends of the twisty vine together, and began to weave in the tiny white flowers.
“How about some roses? I love roses.”
I rolled my eyes and carefully extracted a half-dozen tiny roses from their respective bushes in our landscaping: pinks and yellows. I added them to the makeshift crown, threw in a few leaves for good measure, and turned to my daughter.
Her eyes lit up. “Wow. I have to show Mommy.”
I was a hero for about twenty minutes, and then I insisted the crown needed to be left outside. Bugs, leaves, drying rose petals: These were things I didn’t want to find on the floor.
My daughter’s eyes widened in alarm. “But —” I stammered quickly. “That’s the magic of flower crowns. They return to the earth and can be summoned back whenever you need them.” I opened my mouth, closed it. My wife leaned in. “That’s why they’re better than regular crowns; you can find them anywhere — if you know how to look, what to look for. That’s the magic.”
My daughter nodded slowly, thinking. I knew I’d hooked her with the word magic. But the idea that the fun and joy and wonder of a flower crown could be something simply released back into the world and something easily reclaimed clearly resonated with her.
Perhaps all those princess books are having an effect.
Ignatius teaches us to cultivate spiritual indifference. That means we relish in the joy of our own proverbial flower crowns but are always able and willing to part with them, return them to the earth, when the time comes. We hold all things lightly; we cling to nothing. In this way, we are available to respond generously to God at work in our lives.
But the flip side of Ignatius’ wisdom is just as important: Our God is generous and delights in surprising us. We hold all things lightly so that we are able to pick up all the things God desires to give us.
That’s the magic of flower crowns, right? We return them to the universe trusting that when we need them, we can assemble them again with what we have at hand. But if we cling to tightly, if we hoard those flower crowns, they whither and die and clutter up the floor with brown leaves and dead petals.
Our God is always assembling flower crowns for us, if we have the eyes to see. Just as often, our God is asking that we let go of those crowns, trusting that there are more to be had down the road.
Sometimes, too, we find our heads crown-less and our bodies tired and sweaty, but in our hands we discover that we hold the tools to craft a flower crown for others.
We hold the tools to manifest God’s delight to those we encounter each day.
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Eric A. Clayton is the author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day and IgnatianSpirituality.com. His fiction has been published by Dark Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian. Follow Eric’s writing at ericclaytonwrites.com.