I pulled up to the dirt driveway that was quickly becoming reclaimed by nature as the grass, now no longer being trampled daily by tires, was growing back.
I got out of the car. It felt good to stretch. It felt even better to see the Green Mountains greeting me on the driver’s side of the car. I gazed at them and smiled as I remembered how seeing them always gave me something to praise God for even on the days there seemed little to praise. It didn’t matter what kind of day I was having or whether it was sunny, raining or snowing. Whenever I got home from a long day of ministering out in the community, seeing that view always revived my soul. Nature was indeed God’s medicine for me.
I stretched some more and allowed my soul to revive. The drive from Maryland to Vermont was a long one, but one that was necessary if my husband and I were to check up on our little red house that had been on the real estate market for awhile.
As I made my way to the house, I did my usual assessment of its condition. More paint peeling from the clapboards. We’re going to have to take care of that sooner rather than later. What’s that? There seems to be s a wider gap in between the upstairs window and sill. We’re going to have to take care of that sooner rather than later too.
I continued my assessment as I made my way to the front door, taking note of the pang of sadness in my heart when I saw the realtor’s sign stuck in the front yard. I was secretly glad that no one had yet offered to buy our little house. And I think my husband was too.
My eyes went passed the sign and I was about to assess the old weathered picket to fence to see just how many pickets fell to the ground. But there weren’t any pieces of broken or rotted wood this time. Instead there was a rose bush filled with buds cascading up the side of the fence.
I dropped my bags and ran to the roses. I had to touch them. I had to smell them. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I never thought I would ever see this day. Roses!
Let me explain. When the roses first came to me they were little sticks with seemingly no life to them at all. I was shocked. I looked into the bag they travelled in hoping to find some clue as to why the online nursery I ordered them from sent me sticks instead of lush roses. Was this a mistake? An online scam?
I showed my husband the sticks and then showed him a print out of a picture of the roses I thought I had ordered.
He looked at the picture and began laughing. “Did you really expect to get five mature rosebushes for only $5.99? You got exactly what you paid for,” he said, reassuring me the sticks would eventually grow into the roses I had wanted.
We went outside and began putting the sticks into the dirt alongside the old weathered picket fence where I had envisioned beautiful roses climbing all over like in some fabled cottage in the English countryside.
As he made the hole in the ground and gently placed the stick, filling the dirt back in and then instructing me to pour what seemed to me to be way too much water, I kept sighing about how nothing would come of these “dead” sticks.
“Why are we wasting our time?” I kept asking. My husband just kept planting.
Later that week I shared my rosebush fiasco with Amy, a woman at the little white church who was beginning to help out more with our children’s ministries.
I lamented to her about how my husband insisted we plant these “sticks.” I made sure my story had just enough dramatic flair to it to make it entertaining. And entertained she was. Not, though, for my storytelling skills.
She was amused that sitting before her was a pastor who preached about all things being possible with God and, yet, when it came the promise of beautiful flowers coming from little sticks, my faith was seemingly lacking.
“It’s just like the ministry to the youth we are growing here. It might not seem like much, but in time, you will see something beautiful bloom,” she said.
That night I sat outside on the front step breathing in the smell of the freshly turned soil of the fields all around that would soon be planted with corn. I looked over at the fence and stared at those seemingly nothing sticks in the ground. It wasn’t just God’s ability to turn a stick into a beautiful rose I was questioning. It seemed lately my faith was seemingly lacking.
A year went by and life, as life does, threw a curve ball of sorts. An offer to pastor another church came and, after months of struggling with what to do, I found myself packing boxes to move.
The day the U-Haul came was a busy one, filled with many emotions that I had hoped I had stuffed securely into one of those boxes, for I just didn’t want to deal with them.
My husband and I were busy going back and forth into the house and out to the van. We had a productive rhythm going, that is, until I stopped right in my tracks. Something whispered in my heart to turn around and look at the old fence where dead sticks were once stuck into the ground. I put the box down on the grass and slowly walked over to the fence not exactly sure of what I expecting to see. Out of the five sticks that were planted, only one remained. And not only one remained, but there on its still seemingly dead stick of a body was a gift for me—one green leaf waving in the wind as if waving good bye, sending me off with a message, “…in time you will see God’s promises bloom—in time.”
All the pent up emotion I thought I had safely packed away and secured tightly with packing tape, came falling out of my heart. Hearing my sobs, my husband came rushing out of the house. I pointed to the little green leaf waving at me.
“Amy was right. Everything is just beginning to take root. I can’t leave my little rose bush.”
My husband comforted me with promises of visits back home. “But…but…but when the house sells, then what?” I protested. My husband comforted me some more with the reminder to worry about that when the time came. It never did come.
Time moved on with no offers to buy our house and so more visits to the house were planned. With each trip back yet another new green leaf on the rosebush was waiting to greet me with the same message it waved good bye to me with, “…in time you will see God’s promises bloom—in time.”
And now…roses, actual roses!
Like Simeon whose eyes had finally seen the long-awaited promise of the Christ Child that day in the temple, I, too, felt as if I had seen a long-awaited promise in the roses that were now filling a lush green bush that was once just a stick in the ground. I was seeing the promise of a hope that can never die when that hope is deeply rooted in God.
For God can take those seemingly dead sticks are in our lives and turn them into something beautiful. God can bring us back to life. Amy was right. In time…
“What are you doing?” my husband asked as he came from the car with the rest of the bags only to find me wrestling to take down the realtor’s “For Sale” sign that was jammed way down into the ground.
“Our roses are blooming.”
It was all I needed to say. And with that we tossed the “For Sale” sign away.