We planted pink climbing roses about 15 years ago -- and we've been trying to kill them ever since.
The first few years they were beautiful. The vine climbed up the wall and wound its way all around the porch. The blooms were large, heavy, and blush pink.
As years passed, our kids were born and eventually started playing outside, and a porch covered in thorns was dangerous. My mommy instincts kicked in. "Get rid of it," I told my husband.
The first year, he cut it down and dug up the roots. It grew back... so the next year he hacked at the roots with an axe. It grew back... so the next year he poured Roundup on the roots. It grew back... so he dug it up and gave it to my mother. It grew back... so he dug it up and gave it to our neighbor. The plant would not die -- no matter what we did to it. This year, it grew back and we left it alone. At this point, it's a matter of respect. If it can survive all we've done to it, it deserves to live -- and it's thriving.
But the rose plant is different from what it used to be. Instead of large, blush-pink blooms, it has small, red ones. It's more of a compact bush than a leggy climber. It's totally different, but beautiful nonetheless. (The hardier variety grafted to a more delicate variety seems to have won out.)
God reminded me of the parallels of this plant to my life over the past few years. It's been two years since I was diagnosed with cancer (and over a year since I was declared cancer free.) Like the rose, no matter how many times I've been cut, hacked, and taken apart with pieces of me gone forever, I'm still here.
I have a new normal just like the rose bush. My life looks very different, too. And the truth is it's not always pretty.
I haven't blogged in many months because I've been struggling to adapt to the new me... and honestly not feeling well at all. I've had some major setbacks after I didn't fully recover from my last surgery (suffering permanent damage to my intercostal nerves.) What's more, the medication to lessen my chances of the cancer returning left me with debilitating fatigue and sadness. And the loss of most of my pectoral muscles limited my physical abilities to care for myself and my family in ways I never expected. Life never went back to "normal" and that devastated me.
So, where's my beauty? The rose came back more beautiful than ever... what about my life? I've decided the real beauty lies in how I'm rooted. It's something no one can see. Like the rose whose roots were impenetrable, my life is deeply rooted in the Holy Spirit. On my darkest days, the joy of the Lord is my strength and my song. He sustains me -- and that in itself is a beautiful thing. Without Him, I would surely lose my smile for good and the will to keep fighting to focus on the positive.
I'm counting on God to make my life bloom in beautiful ways this year! I have a pain management doctor to help with the exhausting pain. I have an amazing counselor. I have a husband who prays for me and who serves our family every day without a single complaint. And I have a group of oncologists that refuse to give up, even when I'm grouchy and ungrateful.
God is good despite every setback. Stay rooted in Him because beauty is coming soon.
(One more thing: I hesitated to write this post from such a vulnerable position, but I know I need your prayers. And I want to encourage you to "unmask," too, and share your own prayer needs. We weren't meant to live isolated and afraid. We have each other and we have Him. How can I pray for you?)
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." - John 15:5