#TellHisStory: A Prayer for Purple

May 27, 2014 | 33 comments

The sun was a fair scoot up the horizon by the time we got outside to clip back a bouquet of lilacs. It was Anna’s idea, and we had only a few minutes before the bus stopped at the end of our country lane.

It was her last day of school.

She grabbed the scissors, and I grabbed the iPhone, to snap a few frames, which I would later plunk down in the Instrammable archive that has become my cheap, default scrapbook.

She ran; I walked. And she just sort of giggled the whole way down the hill, and I told her that thing about not running with scissors, but she kept on going, like she was chasing glory.

Which she was.

She got there first, of course, and by the time I arrived on the scene, her whole face was pressed into those lilacs. I envied her in that moment, how she could just lose herself like that in a scrubby old bush in our backyard. In a way she reminded me of me — the me I want to be, anyhow, the me that gets so blasted lost in the inglorious nature of “maturity.”

I grew up in the lilacs.

We had this enormous, misshapen lilac bush on the edge of the yard, out by the road, and it was so large that I could walk between the branches and hide in the middle. I’d look up, face toward the blinding sun, and the branches would sway in the breeze, repositioning their shadows along my barely tanned arms. I felt so small, squinting in my scratchy cave, and I thought it would be forever until I got big enough to reach the lilacs on the high branches.

And then, with the accumulation of years, I got tall enough to reach the lilacs, but too inattentive to stretch for them. I stopping pressing my face into the lilacs.

Anna snipped bouquets. I snapped pictures, and remembered how we’d planted these lilac bushes in 2004, the year she was born. We planted five in all, and I couldn’t wait for the following spring, when the lilacs would proliferate in purple.

But that next spring, the year Anna turned one, barely any lilacs bloomed at all. And the ones that materialized were white, not purple. And I was kind of sore about the whole deal, not sure who to blame. But then I just sort of forgot about it.

That was nine years ago. Next week, Anna will turn ten. No more girls in single digits in the Lee house.

My nine-year-old Anna snipped more lilacs — some for her teacher, and some for our house.  She held one under my nose, and I breathed it in deep, and I might have even closed my eyes. The lilacs smelled purple. 

We walked up the hill, and then down the driveway, with bouquets in our hands. And like we do every morning, we prayed together as we walked toward the mailbox, where the bus stops. This time, though, I couldn’t get through my prayers when it got to my turn. I scuffed a toe at the gravel.

Anna turned to me, with her flowers at her side, and raised her eyebrows, as if to ask, without words, “What’s wrong, Mom?”

But I swallowed down that lump that swelled up in my throat, and clutched tight to my little bouquet.  I muttered some prayer about the last day of school, and then said Amen, but I also kept on praying quietly as we walked along, side by side.

Because in a twinkling of an eye, she’ll be growing her own lilacs, and she’ll be tall enough to reach the high branches, and maybe she’ll remember that bundle she carried down the lane, and how her mother could hardly pray on account of a lump in her throat. And she’ll understand it then.  She’ll understand why. And maybe she’ll know then, how I prayed that she’d always run for the lilacs. And that maturity wouldn’t chase the kid out of her soul. And that the world would always, always smell like the color purple in spring.


So, what’s your Story?

A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God. (And as you can see with the case study above, some stories have almost zero spiritual application!)

You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.

Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.

Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.

Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?


For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here. Share the love of story by visiting someone else in the community!

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by | May 27, 2014 | 33 comments


  1. lindalouise

    I always feel a bit weepy when I read these little vignettes of your time with your girls Jennifer. They are so precious. Do you know, I think we push that kid in our hearts aside for a time, but she tends to resurface as we age. I am sometimes surprised by the aging face I see in the mirror because that little kid is still in there. i enjoy her company.

    • dukeslee

      I weep when I write them, too. Thanks for coming by Linda.

  2. Cheryl Smith

    Oh, my word, Jennifer! I am sitting here literally BAWLING. I feel what you are saying SO deeply. We have one sweet boy God sent to us after 12.5 years of infertility, and he is now 13. THIRTEEN. I don’t know how it happened. Tonight, I wasn’t feeling well…just needed to relax and unwind. I heard his still child-like voice from the swimming pool outside our back door…”Mama, will come get in with me?” “Zach, I’m so tired, buddy. Not now, okay?” “Okay, Mama”, disappointment in every syllable. I sat here a few minutes…until I could sit here no more, went and got dressed for the pool, and made my way out the back door to our sweet boy whose face lit up at just the sight of me. These moments…precious and rare….are passing all-too-quickly. They bring heights of joy and the sharpest pangs of hurt…all at the same time, because we know they will one day (too soon), be only memories. I LOVED this post more than any of yours I have ever read…I can’t thank you enough for sharing your heart.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you so much, Cheryl! xo

  3. GrammaT

    Oh sweet sweet Anna. She is so special to me too. And I love lilacs. Did you know they say the white ones are more fragrant than the lavender ones? Not sure if it is true but whatever they are the smell of spring to me. I miss having them here. Enjoy your bouquet and your family as you spend time together away from the busy-ness of life.

    • dukeslee

      Anna loves you, GrammaT. I do too… I didn’t know that, about the white ones!

  4. Jennifer Camp

    Jennifer, oh wow, you and your sweet girl…and you and those lilacs…forever that little girl….all just glorious and so beautiful. I loved this so much.

    • dukeslee

      Want to freeze these moments. But, alas …
      There’s glory in the growing-up years, too, but I’m a sentimental woman. No lie.

  5. Debbie

    Thank you for hosting, Jennifer! I loved the story, and kids just grow too fast. It seems my daughter just had her first daughter, but I blinked and she is going to Kindergarten in the Fall already!

    • dukeslee

      I hear you, Debbie. Thanks for coming by!

  6. Jillie

    Jennifer, this is beautifully told. That precious Anna-Girl of yours. Love that photo with her face buried deep in the aroma of purple. I think your stories of your girls touch me so deeply because I cannot recall much of my childhood. Seems I had to be an adult much sooner than many, and when I read of your girls ‘being girls’, it thrills my heart. I don’t have to tell you to cherish and seize the day, every day, with Anna & Lydia. What a wonder they are! Free to be who God made them to be. (My daughter used to take lilacs to her teachers too.)

  7. Sheila Dailie

    Oh, yes, those years fly by! My first baby’s baby finished kindergarten last week. And she and I will pick some lilacs this weekend.

    But lilacs remind me of keeping the love alive in marriage. Every spring, my dad would bring in a bouquet of lilacs for my mom every day or so during lilac season. For their wedding, the church was decorated in lilacs. As a young girl, I thought every dad did that, since lilacs were abundant all over.

    However, that bouquet was an act of self-giving love. After all, it was the peak of spring field work. And sometimes Dad had to go out to the shelter belt to find the first or last blooms.

    No matter if lilacs remind us of our child-like daydreams or the bloom of romance in a long-term marriage, lilacs smell like love!

    Thanks, Jennifer!

  8. Michelle Anderson

    Oh boy. The last paragraph. I have to completely agree with you in your prayer and say amen. Smelling purple and running for lilacs. Amen.

  9. Jolene Underwood

    Ahhh..the lilac trees in our back yard that formed the fence between our world and the Methodist pastor’s family. The cut away in the middle that allowed us to walk through the fence that God built with beauty. Sweet memories. I miss those precious days of innocence and the smell of the lilacs. Thank you for sharing your memories and the beauty you see with your daughter. Precious.

  10. Mitzi

    Oh…sniff…sniff…this brought tears to my eyes. Reminded me of when my own children were growing up. They grow up so quickly. Now my eldest has children of her own, and they too are growing far too quickly. I loved this post…so sentimental and deep. So Beautiful!

  11. Holly Solomon Barrett

    Love the smell of purple! What a great memory for you and your girlie. These memories are a God-given grace that allows us to let them grow up. We can’t hold onto them forever, but we can remember.

  12. Karrilee Aggett

    Oh my friend… if only we could freeze frame these moment of Preciousness… Nothing says Spring like lilacs in bloom… beautiful and delicate, but strong and undeniable. Gorgeous in their clusters and breathtaking when you look closer to see all the tiny petals… and the rest? Girl… my only Girlie is moving out… packing up a lifetime in her room by the car loads and while it is only 5 minutes away from me, to think that ‘her room’ is now somewhere else and I won’t be able to tuck her in and know that she is safe… gah. (Although – she has assured me she’ll text me good night and she expects ‘her room’ here to stay EXACTLY the same! She even bought herself new furniture so she didn’t have to take anything out of her room – other than clothes, because, of course!) Love you so!

  13. soulstops

    What a special memory for you and Anna…smelling purple 🙂

  14. Kelly Blackwell

    Just had to drop by today, and wow! What an amazing story. It reminded me of the lilac bush we left behind when we moved from Rhode Island to Arizona. My son and I would take a picture in front of it every school year and he would always pick the blossoms for me. I wonder if I can plant one in Arizona? Thank you for the memories. 🙂

  15. Becky Keife

    I dropped by oldest off for his last day of preschool this morning. In a few short months he’ll be a “big kid” off to kindergarten. So pretty much I was primed to be a weepy mess already but the sweetness of your words, the sweetness of this moment with your daughter and memories from your past has me all tears and smiles. And I think I can even smell the Lilacs all the way over here in California.

  16. LW Lindquist

    “Anna will turn ten.” Let’s please not let her. The first time I met you, you were walking across the alfalfa field at Lifelight, holding Lydia’s hand and carrying Anna. Ten does not seem quite possible just yet. 🙂

  17. Laura Risser Moss

    Jennifer…this. is. just. so. much.
    Thank you. *tears*

  18. Jenna Guizar

    Jennifer, as always, this is beautiful. Your writing makes me feel at home. Thank you 🙂 ~Jenna

  19. Megan Willome

    We don’t have any lilacs, but we do have a mountain laurel bush big enough to hide in that blooms purple. It didn’t bloom at all this year because of the drought. But it’s been raining the last few days. Maybe it will forget that it’s too late and bloom anyway.

  20. pastordt

    Every word. Every word of this, I absolutely adore. Thank you.

  21. Lisha Epperson

    I’ve got that same lump in my throat lately. Watching my tweens reach milestones and navigate the world while remaining full of wonder is a gift. My prayer…Lord don’t let me forget what it’s like. To know purple, live lavender. If I remember a part of them will too.

  22. Sherrey Meyer

    “Smelling purple.” It doesn’t matter the color of the blossom; all lilacs smell purple, don’t they. What a lovely memory, and I love this link up!

  23. Hillary

    Your words are written so beautifully! Thank you for sharing that story with us.

  24. Beth

    Always beautiful. I just adore you. Much love. xoxo

  25. Amy Jung

    Seems like the more I hold on the faster it all goes. I loved this! The white lilacs are beautiful!

  26. Lisa notes...

    This makes me nostalgic since both my girls now are out on their own, growing their own flowers at their own places. I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but it can still make me sad. Beautiful story though, Jennifer, and I’m glad you shared it.

  27. Nancy Ruegg

    Note to self: Don’t forget to run for the lilacs and keep alive the kid in your soul. Good advice, in order to capture more of the joy of life. One of the Midwestern pleasures I’ve missed these forty years in Florida is the scent of lilacs. But, in a humorous, God-ordained twist, Steve and I are retiring in June and moving back to the region of our roots! (I know–we’re doing this backwards.) One of the first purchases I will make for our new house will be a lilac bush! This will probably be my last comment, Jennifer, until after we move. Packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks. But I’ll be back!

  28. Kimberly Sullivan

    Lilacs always smell lavender and their fragrance hangs in the air framing a moment in time forever….



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