Sandra felt low as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then her father’s company threatened a transfer. On top of that her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. Sandra shuddered. Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?—she wondered.
“Good afternoon. Can I help you?” The flower shop clerk’s approach startled her. “Sorry,” said the clerk, whose name was Jenny. “I just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you.”
“I need an arrangement.”
“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 suggests a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?”
“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted. She regretted her outburst but was surprised when Jenny said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.” The door’s small bell suddenly rang.
“Barbara! Hi,” Jenny said. “I have your order ready. Just a moment.” She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped, no flowers. “Want this in a box?” Jenny
Sandra watched for Barbara’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers atop the thorny stems, but neither woman did.
“Yes, please. It’s exquisite,” said Barbara. “You’d think after three years of getting the Special, I’d not be so moved by its significance, but it’s happening again. Thanks.”
Sandra stared. Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement? she wondered. Sandra pointed and blurted out, “That lady just left with, uh…”
“Well, she had no flowers!”
“Right, I cut off the flowers.”
“Off. Yep. That’s the special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”
“But, why do people pay for that?” In spite of herself, Sandra chuckled.
“Do you really want to know?”
“I couldn’t leave this shop without knowing. I’d think about nothing else!”
“Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today,” Jenny explained. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer and she faced major surgery.”
“Ouch!” said Sandra.
“That same year,” Jenny explained, “I had lost my husband. I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”
“What did you do?”
“I learned to be thankful for thorns.”
Sandra’s eyebrows lifted. “Thorns?”
“I’m a Christian. I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time to learn that dark times are important. I had always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort.”
Sandra started to ask Jenny to go on when the door’s bell diverted their attention.
“I’m here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!” Phil laughed, heartily.
“I figured as much,” said Jenny. “I’ve got them ready.” She lifted a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet.
“Beautiful,” said Phil.
Sandra could not resist asking. “Why thorns?”
“I’m glad you asked,” he said. “Last Thanksgiving I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she had kept a vase of rose stems—stems! —as a reminder of what she had learned from thorny times. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught me. I’m pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition.”
Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again, and as he left, 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 Jenny.
“Well, my experience says that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God’s care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resent thorns.”
Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. “I’ll take twelve long-stemmed thorns, please.”
“I was hoping you would,” Jenny said. “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?”
“Nothing. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” Jenny said, “Happy Thanksgiving, Sandra,” handing her the Special. “I look forward to our knowing each other better.”
Sandra smiled. She turned, opened the door and walked toward hope.
Author unknown, story adapted from Activated! magazine. Used by permission.
Image 1: Sayuko via Deviantart.com; used under Creative Commons License
Image 2: Sayuko via Deviantart.com; used under Creative Commons License