Well, I have had quite the escapade since last Sunday morning. I’ve written this week about the pain in my neck, which started out of the blue on Sunday. Since then, I have tried all sorts of remedies, culminating with a visit to the chiropractor, who agreed that I had a whopper of a neck cinch. Nice to know I wasn’t lying to myself… anyway, with muscle relaxers, pain relievers, ice packs, hot packs, and a little machine that pound the bejillikers out of one’s back, I woke up this morning – and things are just the same as they were on Sunday. Not sure exactly what I will do next, but maybe it will spontaneously heal on me… does a pig fly, or does it simply fall with a graceful downhill motion?
Anyway, I want to tell you about our yellow rose. One year ago, as we were trying to fill in and beautify the area around the house and around the gazebo, we found a rose bush named after one of the characters of Downton Abbey. The rose was called, “Anna’s Promise,” and after we planted it by the gazebo, later that spring it produced one of the truly beautiful roses I’ve ever seen. It was pinkish, with yellow edges, and huge with a wonderful scent. It was exactly the rose we had been hoping for.
Last fall, we mulched it and covered it, and protected it from the winter snow and ice and freezing temps, and the next spring – we had a stick. I suppose it was an interesting stick, as sticks go – it was very thorny and showed absolutely no evidence of any plans to somehow turn green or produce another rose flower. We tended it until the middle of June, kind of like those emergency medical shows, as the doctors work feverishly to perform CPR, and shock the patient, and then finally, the wiser person around the table says quietly, “He’s gone – call the time of death.”
We just left the rose stick where it was for the rest of the month, and then decided that it was time to move on, so we went shopping – again – for a rose bush to replace our beloved Anna. We managed to find one that again promised beautiful soft white blossoms and that was sturdy enough to withstand whatever our weather would throw at it.
We took it home, planted it properly, watered and fertilized it, and lo and behold, about a dozen blooms appeared, giving that corner of our yard a happy and satisfied presence. And then – nothing. Now, we planted another rose in another spot in the yard, that grew like a weed, and produced about a hundred little yellow roses in June, and then it turned into a green, gangly bush of sorts. Apparently, the DNA in that rose directed it to bloom big, and then go home. For the rest of the season, nary a bloom materialized. The description, to be honest, said that was going to happen, and so we left it alone, and the next spring, once again, the area was filled with dozens of little tea roses, and then it was done again. Ok, that’s what we get with this one…
But the one by the gazebo, the new one that we planted to produce big white blooms, was failing on its contract. We mulched it, dead headed the worn out blooms, carefully pruned it to bring air to the center of the rose, watered and fertilized, and it responded by quietly saying, “Thanks – but I don’t feel like it.” Obstinate little rose. Sure, it was green, and outside of a few leaf munchers, it held up for most of the summer.
Then, after Labor Day, when things start to wither down up here in the northland, I looked out one morning, and noticed a pretty good sized, tall shoot growing out of the center of the plant. Maybe it was getting ready for act II or something! The shoot grew probably three feet or so, but looking at it, there were no buds or blooms or even hints that it was going to do anything other that grow tall like Jack’s beanstalk. Do you ever feel like you are in the wrong business? I like roses, not rose sticks. I mean, there’s not a lot to show by snipping off the stick, putting it in water and displaying it on the dining table. “Here’s our beautiful product of our gardening – do you want to sniff the stick?”
Yesterday, however, as Cheri was once again closing the gazebo windows and storing the cushions of the outside chairs inside to make sure that they weren’t soaked from the potential rainstorm coming, she poked her head in the back door, and summoned me to come to the gazebo. I quickly dropped everything I was doing, since I always come quickly when my beloved calls. I came to the gazebo, and Cheri pointed to the obstinate rose bush. Indeed, there was the tall offshoot, growing away, but then she pointed out a small yellow bloom off one of the older branches. It was a pretty little rose! Looking carefully at the plant, we noticed close to a dozen new little buds of potential roses coming on board – on September 30 in North Dakota.
Did you notice anything unusual in the above description? We had purchased a bush that promised to produce white roses, but now in the autumn breezes, we were looking at yellow roses. There was nothing on the little tag that hangs by elastic that helps you decide what kind of rose you want to buy – it didn’t say, “White rose, but don’t be surprised if just at the time things are going to get put away for the winter, that it will bloom out some yellow flowers for you, just to keep you on your toes…”
So, now we have a yellow rose bush – at least until the frost hits in the middle of October. I’m curious as to whether next spring we will get pink roses, and then red ones, as the plant goes through its cycle of refusing to bloom, and then on its own time, puts out something else to surprise us.
So, I guess we will take care of it this fall, and protect it from the winter’s harsh pounding. I do like yellow roses, but it’s kind of like going to a steakhouse, and ordering a great thick ribeye, and they serve you walleye instead. Both have the syllable “eye” in it, but they are quite different tastes, to be sure.
Part of our lives, if we live them to the fullest, means that we can expect to be surprised at the unexpected that comes to bloom before our eyes. It’s not that it is simply some accident that changed our expectations – it’s more that God enjoys a good surprise – just like resurrection on a Sunday in Spring, when all seemed to be dead and unable to grow anymore – God brought Jesus out of the tomb, almost to say, “Surprise! It’s not what you thought would happen, but it’s so much better!” Our role in life is to be ready for what God brings, whether that’s exactly what we thought, or completely opposite. It helps us remember that God is in charge, and this universe – and our own backyard – holds secrets and surprise that we never would have dreamed of, but only can receive with gratitude and joy. Let’s work to live that way today – even as we gaze upon a yellow rose.
Word for the day: immure. Pronounced im-MUR. An interesting word, as most everyone is. It means today, “to shut in, seclude or confine – even to imprison.” Most of the time today, when we would hear such a word, it goes to describe how we handle our feelings, or a possible argument. The truth is, however, that the word is a bit more violent. The Middle Latin immurare, means “to shut up with the walls.” Coming from the older Latin murus, “wall,” and im, “within or in” to immure someone or something was/is to brick them up inside a wall or cell, with no escape possible. For us, it just means to brick up our feelings, but the earliest root means to practically kill something by confining it forever. By the way, murus reminds us of “mural,” or a painting on a wall…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.