Draw Near

Quite honestly, I felt terrible.

My mom’s rosebushes have been alive and flourishing since the early 1970’s when she planted them along the brick sidewalk on the east side of our mobile home. They produced massive blossoms in that location for 10 years. When my parents built our house, mom purposefully transplanted those same rose bushes under the kitchen window on the south side. Those some bushes have sustained harsh winters, survived the hottest summers, and continued to produce amazing, fragrant buds and blooms year after year.

Until now. They only have me. It’s only been two seasons since I’ve been on “rose duty” without Mom. I’ve already had to replace one. It could have been the fact it got too dry because I failed to build a little “fort” in the dirt to prevent the water from running off. Or, it could have been because the weed killer I used on the dandelions drifted a little and damaged the bush. Either way, it was my fault.

I replaced that bush last summer and much to my surprise it came back this spring! In fact, all four bushes came back. No one was more astonished than me. I took extra care last fall to cover the entire ball of the bush just like Mom taught me. I read the instructions on how and when to fertilize them. In fact, I read those instructions twice because sometimes I get distracted and forget what I’ve just read. I haven’t had as many blooms this year, but nonetheless, the bushes have all produced buds.

The bush on the far east end of the row is a deep red. Mom called it a Mr. Lincoln. It is the second to the oldest bush in the collection. Beautiful and fragrant, it was always my brother’s favorite, so I do my best to protect that one. This year the birds planted a field of wild sunflowers amongst the rose bed though. Mr. Lincoln didn’t get as much sun as usual because I didn’t have the heart to cut down the massive sunflower. As it turned out, the sunflower ended up protecting Mr. Lincoln from the extreme heat back in July. The buds were not as numerous as previous years, but they came just the same.

The Peace Rose is a deep peach color. This is the oldest bush in the collection. It was my mom’s favorite and I have to admit, it is a beautiful rose. Layer upon layer of petals open slowly exposing the most perfect rose. The Peace Rose is also very fragrant and it makes a wonderful display in a bud vase. The Peace Rose was plentiful this year. If I cut the stem when the bud is just starting to open, the rose continues to blossom in a vase. The key to a slow opening and longevity in a vase is timing. Cut it too soon, the bed never opens. And cut it too late, buds open completely in one day and are gone within a few hours. Timing is everything.

The pink rose bush doesn’t have a formal name. It has died off completely more than once and reproduced itself on its own the next spring. It flowers consistently all summer long. I credit that to the fact it is planted directly under the water spicket. It gets extra watering by default simply due to its location.

The bush next to the pink bush is the new one—the one I replaced last summer. It is small, but seems to be coming along. It’s only had a few blooms and none worthy of bringing inside, but I’m hopeful it will winter well. The purple Asters jostle for position with this bush. It was my hope to save both the Asters and the original rose bush, but for whatever reason, my mom thought it was a good idea to put river rock in the flower bed “to prevent weeds”. That was several years ago now, but the weeds have found their way into the rocks and there is absolutely no way to dig around them or under them. Mom made sure there was “enough” rock to keep out the weeds. Now I have weeds and rocks, and Asters encroaching upon the newest rose bush.

A few weeks back I happened to notice a new bud on the Peace Rose first thing in the morning. I checked it midday and the timing seemed perfect for cutting. I counted down five sets of leaves and cut the stem at an angle like Mom taught me. Using the shears, I clipped of the long thorns then brought the beautiful fragrant rose bud in to the house. I chose my favorite bud vase, added water, and displayed the rose on the kitchen island so I could watch it open over the next few days.

Much to my dismay, the poor little bud didn’t open. It hung its head low over the edge of the vase. Two days passed and nothing happened.

It made me sad to see the rose hanging over like that. I cut the stem again thinking maybe it couldn’t absorb the water. But still, nothing happened.

By the third morning the rose was very weak. My spirit plummeted. I was sure I’d killed the rose. The stem had softened considerably, and the petals were starting to curl at the edges. I worried the once perfect bud was damaged beyond hope. I remembered how my mom sometimes put roses in a bowl of water instead of vase. Figuring I had nothing to lose by this time, I put fresh water in a small bowl, cut the stem off at the base of the bud, said a quick prayer for restoration, and gently rested the drooping flower against the edge.

Then I left for work.

I returned six hours later to find my little Peace Rose floating happily in the bowl of water. The petals were stronger, and the bud was starting to open. I watched in amazement over the next few hours as the four-day old rose bud continued to blossom. Fearlessly, courageously, it spread its petals with perfection.

That little bud blossomed into a beautiful, fragrant Peace Rose before my eyes. And it lasted a full week, floating around in the green bowl. Every morning the water was almost gone so I’d refill it and let the rose drink throughout the day. Every evening I would breathe in and receive the rich fragrant offering.

How difficult it was for the rose to draw water from the long stem. Something prevented it from taking in nutrients and hydration in the vase. But once it was shorn close, hydration flowed easily, bringing new life and fresh perspective.

Sometimes that happens to me too.

I find myself trying to drink through a long straw when what I really need is close-up, hands-on nurturing. The nutrients my soul needs and the hydration my spirit craves are right there for the taking, but something prevents them from flowing. The source of life-giving water stays the same, but for whatever reason, I am unable to partake.

Then ever so gently, my Savior takes me in. He cuts back the parts I don’t need and draws me close. He rests my head against His shoulder where I am safe. Way opens. And my spirit refreshes, my perspectives adjust. As my soul is fed, my body is strengthened. My fears, self-imposed misunderstandings, and misgivings fall away so I can drink freely. I am able to float in the safety of His arms.

And then, just like the Peace Rose, I am refreshed, strong, and ready to blossom, fully prepared for whatever lies ahead.

I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as one who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. ~Isaiah 58:11-12 (MSG)

Published by Judith Kay Writes

Judith Kay has spent her life observing, listening, questioning, accepting, challenging, and wrestling with life’s toughest questions. Her writings reveal the answers, enmeshed in the tangled, sometimes messy analogies from everyday living. Judith Kay’s rural Iowa upbringing planted deep roots in core family values, a solid work ethic, and a humble spirit. These traits are personified in characters with deep convictions and heartfelt struggles. No stranger herself to disappointment, struggles, and grief, JK presents characters that wield their way into your heart, inviting you to seek your own answers along their journeys! Moving fluently between works of fiction and non-fiction, life-changing implications draw you into Judith Kay’s stories—sometimes challenging, other times affirming. Her quick wit and keen sense of authenticity keep you engaged. Her characters stay with you long after the story has ended. Her stories speak into your own life and resurface in your personal experiences.

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