This is a story about Trash Can Tillie. She was a tulip. Now you might wonder how Tillie came by her name. That is part of what this story is about so listen carefully to find out the answer.
One day during all of God’s eternity, Tillie found herself in God’s Hands. She quivered when she heard His Voice speaking to her, felt His touch on her stem as He carefully held her.
He said, “Tillie, may I use you to bring glory to My kingdom?”
Amazing, thought Tillie, He was asking her for permission to use her. How like the gentle Creator. Tillie wondered how in the world God could use a simple little tulip to bring glory to the Master of the entire Universe. But He was Creator God. If He wanted to use Tillie, then He could do what He wanted. As these tulip thoughts flitted through her tulip mind, she thought about what an honor it was to be chosen to bless God.
“Of course,” said Tillie. Her little tulip heart was just a beating making her petals flutter even more than they had been. “I would do anything for You, Father.”
“Tillie, this assignment might be a tough thing for a little tulip,” the Father said. “Don’t you worry, Tillie, I’m always with you. I will never leave you alone and will send you help when you need it.”
Her tulip stomach had some jitters. “Father, wherever I go, I know that You will be there just like You promise!”
“Tillie, I am sending you to Earth to bloom for Me”.
“Earth?” she asked. All of a sudden, Tillie’s heart was not so excited after all. Her friends here were wonderful! In the gardens here, they bloomed forever and ever. She remembered hearing some flowers talking about this place called Earth.
Tillie smiled and replied, “What greater adventure could a tulip have than to bloom on Earth, kissed by Your sun!”
Right then and there Tillie decided in her tulip heart, “I will bloom more beautifully on Earth than any other tulip ever has.”
“Yipppeee! I have a job to do for the Father! To earth!” Little did Tillie know what lay ahead of her. She was so brave and so nervous all at the same time.
Tillie’s first memories of being on earth came when she found herself, a little bulb in the midst of all the other bulbs in Holland. “Holland! I’ve heard about Holland. Tillie was so excited. She had come to Holland the most famous tulip country in the world!
“Everybody knows that’s where all famously beautiful tulips come from.
“Thank You, Father,” she shouted!
“Hey,” she yelled, "what’s going on? That tickles.” Someone had put her on some type of a roller-belt and she was traveling along at a fast speed. She realized she was not alone. There were some other tulips rolling with her.
One of her tulip brothers said, “Hey haven’t you ever been on a production line before?” Frankly, dear reader, he had never been on a production line either, but he had heard about it.
“Production line? What is that?” Tillie asked.
“Hey Thomas, explain a production line to this little tulip, will ya?” yelled Harry. Thomas was the one that had told Harry. Up in Heaven, another flower which had been on Earth had told Thomas. “Sure, Harry,” said Thomas.
“Okay, it’s like this ya see… us tulip bulbs are going to be inspected and…”
“Inspected,” Tillie interrupted, “What’s that mean, what’s it for?”
“Well, these guys here on Earth only want the best tulips to put in a package. So, they look us over to see if we are all there and if we will be a good bloomer,” Thomas explained in a patient tone of voice.
“Oh,” said Tillie.
Well, by the time Tillie and her friends got off the conveyer belt, Tillie knew two things. First, that she was considered a premium bulb; and two, she was going to be packaged along with 5 other tulip bulb brothers and sisters.
“Why are we being put in a package, Harry?” Tillie asked, not really sure what a package was. Harry explained, "You really don't know much, do ya? We are going to be sold to a gardener who will take us home and plant us!" Harry continued, "These gardeners are ver-r-r-r-y picky. They want only the best tulips. The packaging tells them everything they want to know."
After Tillie had been ‘packaged’ with her brothers and sisters, she heard some loud talking.
“Okay. That is all of the shipment for now,” said some man.
“Are you sure? Those people at the J-Mart in Grand Rapids are not fun to deal with when the order’s wrong,” the other fella said.
“You got your roses, your pansies, your phlox, all the ground covers, and the best tulips that Holland, Michigan can offer!” the first fella answered confidently.
“Michigan?” thought Tillie. “Michigan? Where is this place called Michigan? What about the windmills and the canals and the wooden shoes?” she thought.
“And where on God's green Earth is Michigan?” she puzzled.
“Oh well,” Tillie sighed, “I can bloom for the Father anywhere He wants and still be the most beautiful tulip!” She was smiling again.
After what seemed like hours and a lot of bumping and jostling inside a box inside a hot truck, her package came to rest in a storeroom at the J-Mart in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She listened to everything the truck drivers said hoping to find out just where she’d go next. But she didn’t really find that out. What Tillie found out instead was that the driver was worried because he might be losing his job.
He told his partner, “If I lose this job, my wife and son, William, and I won’t have any other place to live than some old family property right next to the city dump!” said the man. The first guy laughed not realizing the second fella was serious.
“Father,” she cried out in her tulip heart, “please help this man and his wife and son, William. That dump place does not sound so good. I cannot do anything because I’m just a tulip. But You can, Father, amen.”
The next day, her package, along with thousands of others, was put out on shelves in what was called the Garden Center. AND the excitement of all excitements! Her bag was promptly purchased.
When they got to the purchaser’s home, the bulb bag was put up on a shelf in the garage. “I thought we would be planted!” said Tillie.
“Hey Tillie,” Harry yelled from the bottom of the bag. “It isn’t autumn yet,” he said.
“Don’t worry. We were bought just in time! Everybody get ready to put down roots in God’s green earth!” cried Harry excitedly. So, all the bulbs eagerly waited.
Well, it got cold.
“Maybe today they will take us bulbs and plant us,” all the bulbs chattered excitedly.
Evening came, and the bag remained on the shelf. Disappointed, Tillie fell asleep. She woke up the next morning, thinking, “Maybe today will be the day.”
She went to sleep that night and woke up the next day, hoping with her bulb brothers and sisters that they'd finally be planted.
Day followed day, week followed week, and then month followed month.
Spring came, and Tillie and her brothers and sisters were still on the shelf.
“Oh,” said Matilda the tulip, “I wish I could just stretch up and out and feel the Sun on my face.”
“Yes,” cried another tulip brother. “I just want to feel the dirt between my roots and talk to earthworms!”
“What’s going on?” Harry said just a little irritated. In her tulip heart, Tillie could not help but agree.
Summer was hot in the garage that year.
Fall rolled around, and Tillie, along with her brothers and sisters, held her breath waiting. No planting that year. Not for Harry. Not for Thomas. Not for Matilda. Not for Joyce. And not for Tillie or her other bulb brother, John. Not that year or even the next.
After the fourth year of shelf sitting, the other tulips just stopped talking. Tillie felt that some of them were angry with God, some of them just gave up. After all, didn’t He assign them to bloom for Him? Well, WHEN?????
Dear reader, sometimes it is hard while waiting for the Father’s right time for your season. Your special purpose might not happen when you think it should but just wait. Sometimes that wait might even be for years. But please, wait if you have to. Do not give up. While you are waiting, continue to talk to Him and to learn more about Him, and, yes, even more about yourself.
Suddenly, there was a bunch of noise!
“Maybe it is time!” squealed Tillie, excited with the prospect. It turned out to be something called a garage sale! Tillie and her tulip family were being offered to the one that was willing to pay $2 for her package. “Well, maybe the new owner will be eager to plant us,” she said. There were no replies from her brothers and sisters.
The bulb sack went to another garage next to some fresh topsoil.
“I’m so excited to feel that earth between my roots! To grow and stretch and stretch and break through the ground. To feel the sun on my face. To sway in the wind,” cried Tillie more to herself than to any of her bulb buddies. The day came when the topsoil was removed and used. But the bulb sack with Tillie never saw the outside of the garage. The bulb sack had been pushed back out of plain sight during the commotion.
“Now where are those tulip bulbs I bought?” The owner looked and looked, but he never saw the little sack that had fallen behind two used tires.
Who knows how long Tillie waited. Suddenly, there was noise, laughter, bumping, pulling, more laughter everywhere! The bulb sack was leaving the garage! Yipee, Yappeee, Yahooie! Oh, joy! "Wake up! Wake up!" Tillie shouted to her tulip brothers and sisters. No sound came from them.
The joy was short-lived as Tillie listened and discovered that the owners were cleaning out the garage to make room for their cars. "Hey Bob, I found a package of tulip bulbs here. Do you think Mom will want to plant them?" "Naaa," said Bob, “Might as well throw that away with the rest of the trash." Tillie felt the bag being carried down to the "trash can" with the rest of the garbage. It was smelly, dirty, dark. The bag was thrown into the garbage truck. There was a grinding of gears. The last thing Tillie remembered was the terrible pain from the crushing.
It was a cold winter there at the dump. Tillie, with parts missing, was buried under trash and discarded food. "Oh no," cried Tillie. "They are going to keep dumping stuff on top of me and I'll never get to see the light of day. I'm going to die right here." The smell was awful.
If a tulip could cry, she would. Her tulip body had been torn and now, so was her tulip heart. “Father, where are You? What happened to our plan? Have You forgotten?” Tillie strained to hear His Voice. No answer. "Father, can you hear me? What about our plan? Where are You? Have you abandoned me? Left me here on this dump to die? Father...?" Tillie pleaded. Not a sound. Tillie just laid there. Cold, damp rain penetrated the debris as Tillie waited for her inevitable decay.
The sun came out. Spring arrived early that year. The warmth felt good. Tillie realized that she felt like stretching. So, she did. She stretched and stretched and stretched. It felt so-o-o-o good!
Suddenly, she felt the kiss of the sun on her face. She opened up her eyes gazing up. What she saw thrilled her right down to her little tulip heart. She saw her Father’s eyes looking at her, her Father smiling at her. Oh, it had been a lifetime since she’d seen Him! “Father! Hello Father! It’s me. It’s Your little tulip. It's Tillie!” His smile broadened if that were possible.
“Oh! He has not forgotten me!” Tillie began to cry softly, then wept grateful tulip tears. Tillie thought of all the things she had been through after coming to Earth. She’d been sold and forgotten. She’d been left to wither up in two dark garages. She’d been thrown away and crushed, left to rot with the rest of the trash. And yet – in the midst of that decomposing mess, Tillie suddenly realized that Father had fed her the nutrients she had needed to finally fulfill her destiny, to bloom for Him. Here she was, smiling back at Him and waving her green petals in the wind. “You’re the bestest Father in the whole universe!” She waved and swayed and waved all day. It felt so good to move. Dear Reader, Tillie was a glorious sight out there in the midst of what life had discarded. She was a rich and beautiful red tulip stretching up for her Father’s kiss. She stretched and waved and danced to her heart’s content.
Later that day, a little boy, barefoot and dirty, was digging through the trash on the dump trying to find something special. He was muttering to himself picking up things, look at them, then throw them away. Suddenly, he saw Tillie. “Hi,” she waved.
He walked over and leaned down to smell. Tillie felt something gummy and moist on one of her petals.
"Oh yuck! His nose needed to be wiped! Yuck! She’d been slimmed!" Tillie was grossed out!
Suddenly, his mother called, “William, William, where are you?” Their shack was just over the hill from the dump. They’d had to move there when daddy lost his job at the J-Mart. William played on the dump after school most days. Again, “William, William, where are you?”
William made a quick decision. Tillie had never felt such pain in her life. What was happening, what? She wondered if this was what dying felt like?
The little boy was running, and Tillie was clutched tightly behind his back, upside down. If tulips could throw up, she would. When she thought she couldn’t take another minute of the bouncing, he stopped.
She was pulled out from behind him, flung up at a woman who was caught off guard. She looked at Tillie.
“Why William,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful tulip in all my borned days! Wherever did you find it?”
“I did what you said, Momma. I prayed. ‘Dear God, let me find my momma something special for her birthday.’ And ‘poof!’ I opened my eyes, and there it was! Do you really like it, Momma?”
“I love it,” she said as she kissed him with tears in her eyes.
Tillie was put into an old broken coke bottle filled with fresh water. While she couldn’t see Father’s face, she felt His pleasure every time William’s mother glanced her way.
The day came when all the tulip petals had fallen off. Momma had to discard the stem and water. As the remains of the tulip laid on the ground, Tillie felt her spirit caught back up to her Creator.
Suddenly, every fiber of her being was jumping and popping all at the same time. Her entire being surged with energy like she’d never felt before. She felt a shifting, a handing over. Tillie realized that she was in her Father’s Hands, the Ones that created her! His gaze was piercing, and she suddenly felt all of her little tulip life pass before Him for examination. The piercing was so deep that Tillie thought she might die. She heard all her thoughts and questions and fears from her time on Earth. Just then – when it was more than she could stand –she heard a gentle rumbling, “Well done My good and faithful little tulip.”
Tillie ducked her head and sadly continued, “I’m so sorry that I never was able to do what You sent me to earth to do.”
“Tillie,” said the Father. “You served Me well and faithfully while on Earth. I sent you to Earth just for William and his mother. They needed to know that the truly beautiful things in life are simple and are from My Hand. You were the most beautiful flower that little boy or his mother ever saw," her Creator said.
“William’s mother had just talked to Me that morning, asking if I was there, asking Me what had happened to the plan for their destiny.
She said, ‘Father, will You send me a sign in this smelly, dirty, deserted place. Send me something quite unexpected in the middle of this wasteland. Something beautiful and alive.’
When William came home with you in full bloom, she knew that I heard her. I used you to tell her that I still loved them. Your bloom has encouraged them to not give up.
“Tillie, I was quite proud of you and of how you never gave up, but waited until it was your time,'” He said.
Tillie trembled with the awesome knowledge that she had not waited in vain. Incredibly, she’d been given the opportunity to help Him care for the family of the man at the J-Mart that she’d prayed for. The Father was speaking again. “Tillie, I am not going to send you to one of My gardens. Your faithfulness and trust in Me will be rewarded another way. You have truly pleased Me. You are so beautiful to Me that I am going to keep you right here beside Me in My throne room so that I might enjoy you for all eternity!”
“You are Mine and in you, Trash Can Tillie, I am well pleased.”