Its been a sad couple of months, starting with our cat’s death, and a friend’s death. We grieve Pete, we miss him, and we ask ourselves if we made a big mistake thinking a knee operation would be the right thing, if he would have lived happily without it? Pete was in pain. There were days he couldn’t go up the stairs. There were days he spent almost the entire day in his heated bed. We didn’t see a lot of options. Other sad news has hit; it feels like a season of losses.
In the Lectionary readings, we are reading Job, Ayyoub, and I think if my friend who said “Al-hamdallah!” when I told her my father is dying. I learned so much from her. She made me understand I am to thank God even for the bad things, it is God’s will, and a part of a bigger picture I will never see. And then this morning, I saw a reference to an old post, a post from 2006, a post I don’t even remember writing.
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes 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 that from her.
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 for the holiday.
Then 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 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?” 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.”
Just then the shop 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. And she left with her order.
“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 the good things in my life and never questioned the good things that happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask questions! 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 Special….12 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. “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?”
“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 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.”
Praise Him for your roses; thank him for your thorns!
I know God can bring great good out of all things. I have seen this in my own life, out of the worst circumstances can come good I could never have foreseen. I am praying this fervently; that he will bring great good out of all circumstances.
Every time I see this commercial, it gives me a big grin. These little babies and children need so much attention, and we applaud the loving care their parents put into cherishing them, sustaining them, nurturing them, civilizing them, educating them, exercising them, and sharing with them until they can care for themselves.
Young parents, you are doing the toughest job in the world. We see you. We see your sacrifices, and the effects of sleep deprivation, we see you giving, giving, giving to those who cannot give back, and we are in awe of your loving patience to your children.
I also love it that men are also featured prominently as caregivers :-)
His name was Pete. He died last night. The operation was a success, but the shock to his system caused his kidneys to fail. We are grieving, and having a very very bad day.
We are heartsick.
This little cat was a blessing to us for 11 years. He came to us a skittish little street cat in Qatar. While AdventureMan worked long hours, he kept me company, helping me quilt, entertaining my friends, almost always in the same room or close by. When AdventureMan would come home, he would play hide-and-seek with him and adored AdventureMan with all his little heart. I was the Mama; AdventureMan was the FunGuy.
He was not such a little cat; he was only a kitten in his own mind. He was a very long cat, and appeared much bigger than he really was because of his length, and his big long fur, which made him a fluffy cat. He was polite, always greeting us when we came in, and talking to us when we were sitting together.
He leaves a great hole in our hearts. Rest in Peace, Sweet Kitty.
Today I got this. It’s a common name; it’s entirely possible I know someone of that name, but I have never seen a notice like this, official, impersonal, and not mentioning the specific name of the deceased. It smells. No. It stinks.
First, we really love eating at the Hanger at the Wharf. So does just about everyone else. Twice, we got really lucky. It is easier getting a table if you are just two people, and it is easier getting a table if you eat early. As we are still on Pensacola tummy time, we are in luck. As the Celebration 2014 parade ended, we zipped straight over and as larger groups waited, we were immediately shown to a table for two.
No wonder The Hanger is so popular. The food is terrific and this is the view – straight down the Gastineau channel with Douglas and the cruise ships. As the sun slides behind the mountain, it is a stunning view:
Some hardier souls were eating outside on the deck. I used to be this hardy, but my years in the Middle East have softened me, made me not so good at eating in cool and drafty places, even in the middle of the Alaskan summer.
Inside The Hanger: great, courteous, friendly and efficient employees
Every table taken, the bar is packed, and people are waiting in the hallway to be seated:
We liked the food and atmosphere so well that we went back a second time during the ceremonial dances and were happy to see a lot of the dancers eating there, too. I had the first mate’s plate, with salmon and halibut and a berry chutney and AdventureMan had grilled halibut. We both left happy. We would go there again in a heartbeat.
There is only one little thing about The Hanger that makes me uneasy, and it has nothing to do with The Hanger. When I was a little girl, living across the channel, I would watch for my Dad to come home – this was the airport for the amphibious planes, Alaska Coastal Airlines (now part of Alaska Airlines) and Ellis Airlines. When his plane would land, we would all rush to the car and drive like crazy across the bridge to pick him up (no cell phones then, LOL). So I still feel a little frisson and feel the ghosts of the past when I eat there.
Most people know that the United States has a childhood obesity problem. Less well known is that according to the latest data from the OECD is that we are not actually the world leaders in experiencing this issue. It’s Greece and Italy who have the most overweight kids:
This may not jibe with a lot of hype about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet but it turns out that said diet may no longer be especially popular in Greece and Italy. In 2008, Josef Schmidhuber of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization said traditional eating patterns in southern Europe had “decayed into a moribund state” and drastically increased their overall calorie intake and especially consumption of animal fat, salt, and sweeteners.
From AOL News/ Huffpost:
By MARIA CHENG
LONDON (AP) — Almost a third of the world is now fat, and no country has been able to curb obesity rates in the last three decades, according to a new global analysis.
Researchers found more than 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 percent of men and 65 percent of women are heavy. The U.S. has about 13 percent of the world’s fat population, a greater percentage than any other country. China and India combined have about 15 percent.
“It’s pretty grim,” said Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. He and colleagues reviewed more than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries from 1980 to 2013. “When we realized that not a single country has had a significant decline in obesity, that tells you how hard a challenge this is.”
Murray said there was a strong link between income and obesity; as people get richer, their waistlines also tend to start bulging. He said scientists have noticed accompanying spikes in diabetes and that rates of cancers linked to weight, like pancreatic cancer, are also rising.
The new report was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet.
Last week, the World Health Organization established a high-level commission tasked with ending childhood obesity.
“Our children are getting fatter,” Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general, said bluntly during a speech at the agency’s annual meeting in Geneva. “Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death.” Earlier this year, WHO said that no more than 5 percent of your daily calories should come from sugar.
“Modernization has not been good for health,” said Syed Shah, an obesity expert at United Arab Emirates University, who found obesity rates have jumped five times in the last 20 years even in a handful of remote Himalayan villages in Pakistan. His research was presented this week at a conference in Bulgaria. “Years ago, people had to walk for hours if they wanted to make a phone call,” he said. “Now everyone has a cellphone.”
Shah also said the villagers no longer have to rely on their own farms for food.
“There are roads for (companies) to bring in their processed foods and the people don’t have to slaughter their own animals for meat and oil,” he said. “No one knew about Coke and Pepsi 20 years ago. Now it’s everywhere.”
In Britain, the independent health watchdog issued new advice Wednesday recommending that heavy people be sent to free weight-loss classes to drop about 3 percent of their weight. It reasoned that losing just a few pounds improves health and is more realistic. About two in three adults in the U.K. are overweight, making it the fattest country in Western Europe.
“This is not something where you can just wake up one morning and say, ‘I am going to lose 10 pounds,'” said Mike Kelly, the agency’s public health director, in a statement. “It takes resolve and it takes encouragement.”