I rushed through the narrow aisles, navigating my little red cart with professional-shopper precision. Past grandmas stooped over in food label inspection, past mamas wrangling little hands out of frozen treat freezers. This Trader Joes trip needed to be quick.
Just the basics.
Just a few necessities.
Milk, bananas, eggs, and crackers.
My husband was waiting in the car with our three wriggly boys. I think I made record time.
I opened the slider to our silver minivan and slid the brown paper bags under Jude's dangling feet. Chris craned his neck around to tell me the cute thing Elias said while I was gone and caught sight of the small bouquet of flowers peeking out next to the milk.
"What are those for?' he asked.
"For joy," I replied. "$3.99 for joy."
Later after the wriggles were snuggled sound asleep, after the milk and eggs and bananas were all put away, I took hold of those sweet little flowers. Unwrapped the clear plastic, cut the rubber band wound round the stems. Snipped off angled inches of green. Filled the blue fluted vase given to me by a sweet friend with water and then arranged my joy flowers in their new home. Perched on my kitchen window.
The whole week through I gazed at my little glory vase.
Through the dinner making and temper taming.
Through the little hands washing and dishes sloshing.
Through the morning, noon, and night, I took notice of my red, orange, and yellow blossoms, took notice of this beauty-art grown from earth and picked for pleasure.
Took time to give thanks.
$3.99 was all it cost for a whole week's worth of joy.
Oh, the mystery of this lifeblood that costs so little, that costs so much.
Costs a smile, costs a second look.
Costs a moment stilled to breathe in gratitude, breathe out thanks.
Costs "I'm sorry" or "Please forgive me." Costs a whispered breath of "I forgive you, too."
Costs slowing down to take in each gift: the lizard scurrying across the cracked patio, the child throwing his head back in abandoned laughter, cackling out his boyhood call.
Costs saying yes when you're called.
Choosing to be joy-filled can cost so little. Choosing to be joy-less can cost so much.
It can cost you bitterness and bitter envy.
Cost you the comparison game—a game always lost.
Cost you relational atrophy and spiritual amnesia and sink-inside-yourself despair or a whole host of other sickly diseases caused by failing to look outside yourself.
Little or much, it will always cost you. And it IS always a choice.
A $3.99 bouquet of flowers were not on my Trader Joes food list of necessities.
But joy IS always necessary for nourishing my soul.