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Unread 12-19-2011, 07:42 AM   #2632
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Reisterstown, Maryland
Posts: 27,959

"The walls we build around us to keep out the sadness also keep out the joy."
Jim Rohn

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a
December 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 Christmas week, she would
have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss.

As if that weren't enough, her husband's company threatened a layoff.
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 maturity that would allow her to
empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling,"
thought Sandra with a shudder. "Christmas? Christmas 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 Christmas? Do you
want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a
customer favorite I call the Christmas Special?" asked the shop clerk.
"I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking
for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Christmas?"

"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.

"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
Christmas 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 very much like you
feel today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be
joyful about.

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,
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," answered the clerk quietly. "I've
always thanked God for good things in life and never thought to ask God
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 Godís 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 Christmas 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 us of what we 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 to God
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.Ē

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 minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?" asked Sandra. "Nothing." said the clerk.
"Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart this Christmas. 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'd like to read it first."

It read: "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 challenges I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show
me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of my own pain, and I
feel your comfort now. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of your
rainbow look much more brilliant."
Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
America will only be the land of the free so long as it is the home of the Brave
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