“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 a 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 annual 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 a maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. Had her friend lost a child? No! “She has no idea what I’m feeling,” thought Sandra with a shudder.
“Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?” she wondered aloud. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?
“Good afternoon, can 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?” Jenny saw Sandra’s curiosity and continued. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement insinuates a particular feeling. 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 Jenny said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”
The shop door’s small bell rang. “Hi Barbara, let me get your order” Jenny said. She politely excused herself from Sandra 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?” Jenny asked.
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, it’s exquisite” 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.
Sandra stared. Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement? she wondered. “Uhh,” stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uhh… she just left with no flowers!”
“Right… 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.
In spite of herself, Jenny chuckled. “Do you really want to know why?”
“I couldn’t leave this shop without knowing. I’d think of nothing else!”
“That might be good,” mused Jenny. “Well,” she continued, “Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very 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.”
“Ooooh!” murmured Sandra.
“That same year I had lost my husband,” Jenny went on, “and for the first time in my life, I had to spend 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.”
Sandra’s eyebrows lifted. “Thorns?”
“I’m a Christian, Sandra. I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and never thought 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 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. I don’t know if I can be thankful yet for the thorns in my life” Sandra said to Jenny. “It’s all too… fresh.”
“Well,” Jenny 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. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both good and hard times. We grow through both.”
“Thank you. What do I owe you?” asked Sandra.
“Nothing; Nothing but a promise to allow our Lord to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” Jenny smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you’d like to read it first.”
“Dear 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 cross 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.”
Written by: George Matheson