Friday, February 25, 2011

Why My Mom Likes Thorns

I don't know what Mom was going through. I was only a kid. But as an adult, I look back, and I realize there must have been SOMETHING going on in her life, when she first came across this story. Otherwise, it would not have meant what it did and still does. 

For at least 15 years, but probably more, my mother has had a vase of dried, rose-less thorns sitting in a prominent place in her house. They're quiet and unobtrusive, but distinctly different, And if you ask her what they're doing there, she will tell you this story...

by: Author unknown

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease.

During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren't enough, her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What's worse, Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer.

"She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder.

Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an air bag that saved her life but took that of her child?

"Good afternoon, may I help you?" The shop clerk's approach startled her.

"I....I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra.

"For Thanksgiving? Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving "Special?" asked the shop clerk. "I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Thanksgiving?"

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong."

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the door's small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, "Hi, Barbara...let me get your order."

She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses; Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

"Want this in a box?" asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

"Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said as she gently tapped her chest.

"Uh," stammered Sandra, "that lady just left with, uh....she just left with no flowers!"

"Right, said the clerk, "I cut off the flowers. That's the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet."

"Oh, come on, you can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that!" exclaimed Sandra.

"Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery."

"That same year I had lost my husband," continued the clerk, "and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel."

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra.

"I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for good things in life and never to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop.

"Hey, Phil!" shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

"My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement...twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems," laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?"

"No...I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from "thorny" times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us."

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special."

I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life," Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too...fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment.

"I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?" Sarah asked.

"Nothing; nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."

It read:

"My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the life I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Praise Him for your roses, thank him for your thorns.

Why I keep going on hiatus...

I LOVE blogging. It lets me express myself, it lets me write as much as I feel like writing. I can put it all out on the table and no one HAS to read it or listen to me, but they can if they want. They can also respond, and our friendship grows. I love the feedback (feeds my ego...) and the level of freedom writing gives. I can talk without interruption, a feat that rarely happens when  you have kids (and I only have one!) and even if I DO get interrupted (which also happens a LOT), I can get right  back into what I was saying without hte mommy blank stare while I try to remember what was going on... Plus, I can put my best foot forward. I can delete anything I didnt mean before I actually publish. I can make sure to speak well, say what I mean with power, and mean what I say. Sometimes I feel like a backwards Ether, I feel like I can write SO much better than I can speak. When I speak, I often say things I didnt mean. Or I meant them, I just didnt mean how they were implied. I'm also a hothead and writing gives me a chance to cool down a little before I say something foolish.

I still DO say foolish things, but just imagine what it would have been like BEFORE I relaxed a little.

So, if I love blogging so much, why do I go months at a time with nothing?

Because in order for me to write, I have to know why I'm writing. And I cant figure out exactly what I want this blog to be. I've been dealing with this "identity crisis" for a while now, and tried to solve it by asking questions about blogs by bloggers and blog readers. And I got 4 responses. The first one said I have such an influence for  good (which melted my heart, thanks, Kristin) and that I could use my blog to help and heal. And I LOVE that answer. That is definitely something I want in my blog. Then another said she struggled with the same questions. And a third said she liked her blogs private so that she knew her kids were safe, which I appreciate. I have often wondered if B's "other family" would use any information in the blog for ill-conceived notions, even if they're not so major. Which helped me to conclude that I want this blog to have very little to do with her daily activities. Just how she influences me. And the fourth, my friend Jessica was such a great help. She reiterated that blogs have such a power for good, and that she has made lifelong friends and had an impact on the world because of it.

but what do I really want in a blog?

I want to showcase my  crafts (more feeding my ego), I want to discuss things I've learned, be that influence for good, and say what needs to be said (which I think is the most important thing) and I want to keep those that know me personally updated in my life in a safe and secure way. I want to bring hope and light, I want to share the voice that God has given me in a way that doesn't scare people away but lets them look at themselves and love themselves. I want to save marriages and lives. I want to be that voice that someone needed to hear today. And if I blog, I allow myself to be heard much louder than I could otherwise. I want to fulfill the call presented by Sister Margaret D. Nadauld.

“The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity” (“The Joy of Womanhood,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 15).

 I dont want to be famous. But I do want to be where God can use me. I don't want to be brash. I want to be refined. I want to be an instrument for good.

But how? How do I use my blog to accomplish all those things? It's easy to say I like blogging and I want to use my blog for good. But actually TAKING UP the challenge is scary! Turning myself into someone that is really OUT there is scary. Writing about stuff on the SURFACE of personal is easy. But if I'm really going to be who I could be, if I'm really going to help, I cant stay on the surface of personal. I have to share the inner workings of my heart. I used to be so bold. But life has taught me caution. I used to be loud and outspoken, but life has taught me that to hold back is to not get hurt. Can I really do this now?

So the truth is... the hiatus... was because I'm a big chicken. I dont know what to say or how to say it to bring the world a little joy and strength. I dont know how to get over my fears of actually being what God needs. And I dont know what this means for me or my family.

But I think, for now, until I chicken out again, I'm ready to try...