I love roses. I love the touch of their soft petals. I love their scent and their bright, cheerful colors. Many of my happiest memories have been intertwined with rose bouquets, and down through the years, I’ve kept petals from the roses I’ve been given. When I look at the fading flowers, I remember the love and happiness I felt when I received them.
Roses also seem to embody achievement. In my scrapbooks, I have roses from award ceremonies, roses from high school and college graduation, and pressed roses from the bouquet I received when my first book was published. I don’t just enjoy bouquets–I enjoy growing roses too. With some of my first paychecks, I bought tons of rosebushes, and every summer when my roses bloom, I view them with pride. To me, roses symbolize achievement, kindness, happiness, and love.
As I stroll down memory lane, I can remember a time when roses helped transform my sorrow into joy. My grandmother was very special to me, and when she died, there were pink roses at her funeral. At the time, I thought pink roses would always trigger sorrow, but a week after her funeral, my grandfather found a birthday card my grandmother had bought for me. The card had a picture of a pink rose, and it told me how much she loved me. When I see pink roses today, I’m always reminded that death can’t destroy love. Love always remains—even beyond the grave.
While I was in quarantine, I had to learn how to deal with an extremely restricted life. For a time, I grew very despondent. My diagnosis wasn’t bright, and I thought my life was over. In the middle of a long, gray day, my parents brought me roses. They will never know just how much that spot of colorful joy meant to me. Their gift stopped my gloomy thoughts in their tracks and gave me hope. Their roses reminded me that I was still loved and that life was still possible. For days, I carried that vase with me from room to room wherever I went. Some of the roses from that special bouquet are preserved beneath a glass dome on my desk. I’m looking at them now as I write. When I see those roses, I remember that sadness always passes. I remember that joy always comes. I also remember that small acts of kindness are incredibly important—they can literally transform a person’s outlook on life.
Although roses are wonderful, they also have thorns. Many people have asked how I endured seven years of quarantine. The answer is simple. I tried hard to look at the blossoms and not the thorns. Life is a trade off. Some of our biggest tragedies can also become our biggest blessings. Quarantine was awful (the thorn)—but quarantine gave me the time I needed to write my books (the blossom). I’ve been ill for about a third of my life (the thorn)—but talking about my faith journey has given me a blog outreach that touches people around the world (the blossom). I still have some health problems (the thorn)—but my struggles have taught me to be more patient and compassionate (the blossom). If fields by my house are sprayed with pesticide, I have to evacuate at a moment’s notice (the thorn)—but impromptu “trips” can be restful and fun (the blossom). In this crazy life of mine, I’ve learned that every coin has two sides. Nothing is entirely bad. Something good can always be found if you look hard enough for it.
Today, when I think about my life, I often compare it to a rose. There are some things that make me feel very dissatisfied, and if I focus on them, my whole outlook becomes bleak. But if I change my focus and look at the things that are going right, my outlook becomes cheerful and optimistic. The more I live, and the more I try to glorify God with my life, the more I realize that attitude is everything. I can’t control most things, but I CAN control my attitude. I’m in charge of my thoughts. I’m in charge of my feelings. I can moan about thorns, or I can smile about blossoms. It’s all up to me.