Happy Mother’s Day!

To all the hurting Mamas, these things I know for certain: wait on God, trust He’ll work it out, and know that  worshipping God changes everything…In His time and His way. I hope all the various types of Mamas and children of all ages have a meaningful, ever-blooming day despite life’s prickles.  God sees all and reveals truth. He also is writing your story and planting a garden of hope in you.

The 4 buds featured in this photo symbolize my 4 rose buds (children).

Let My People Grow

Many forms of captivity may manifest in our lives beckoning our very own exodus. One such form of captivity I personally experienced was domestic and familial violence, that is violence or other forms of abuse committed towards me by a spouse as well as a close family member. Sometimes people who you thought would protect and provide for you choose to oppress you much to your shock and horror. Nevertheless, the story of Joseph’s family oppressing him (in the Bible) reminds me that God can use all circumstances for your good and the benefit of others as well. Later on in Scripture, God hears the cries of the oppressed descendants of Joseph and his family and sends Moses to let God’s people go. Hence, the exodus story. After cultivating my exodus from such “pestilence”, God used gardening to help heal my heart and mind. With a heart full of gratitude towards God for graciously hearing my desperate prayers, I want to use my life to help cultivate growth in others who may still be awaiting an exodus of their own.

Due to these traumatic experiences and wanting to help others still in captivity, I became a certified domestic violence advocate that not only held faith based support groups in my home for victims of domestic violence, but I also went on to found a non-profit that housed pregnant survivors of domestic violence and their children. Although I no longer house hurting women, I find myself still wanting to encourage those who are suffering. Perhaps my garden-themed articles throughout this site will plant seeds of hope and healing to those still in captivity.

Additionally, if you are a loved one of a person currently in a toxic and abusive relationship, it is critical you do the following to best help your loved one:

  1. Educate yourself on domestic violence. There are many variables involved and no easy solutions. Refrain from saying things like, “Why don’t you just leave him/her?” or exuding any form of victim-blaming. To learn more, click here http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/educated/avoiding-victim-blaming/
  2. Ears open. Understand victims of domestic violence are often gaslighted and bombarded with lies and negative comments from their abusers as well as ignorant, insensitive people. How you respond to the victim is a matter of life and death. The best thing you can do for your loved one is simply listen.
  3. Explore and Empower. You cannot fix their situation and you do not know what is best for the victim. They, however, know their circumstance and abuser best. It is important you help them explore all options and think through potential outcomes for better or worse and then empower them to make the best and safest series of decisions for themselves and their specific circumstances. Refrain from making decisions for them or forcing them to take action.
  4. Encourage the victim. Please be patient and encouraging as you listen to the many exhausting emotions, patterns, and variables the victim will experience. Be aware a victim of domestic violence often attempts to leave or indeed ends the relationship only to return on average 7 to 9 times before finally terminating the relationship. It is important you do not say anything negative about the abuser to the victim for she/he will not return to you for advice or help once she/he reconciles with their abuser. Leaving is a process – not an event. Also, be aware when a victim of domestic violence attempts to terminate the relationship, that is when the victim’s life, as well as her children or pets, are most in lethal jeopardy. She cannot “just leave”. By encouraging her to do so, it could be signing her death warrant – particularly if weapons are in the home.
  5. Evolve. Eventually, by planting seeds of love and hope in your loved ones as you implement these methods listed above, in time, the victims will hopefully free themselves from such pestilence or suffocating weeds when they believe it is safe to do so and evolve into overcoming, “ever-blooming roses” despite life’s prickly pain.

“My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection.” Psalm 71:7

Let Go To Grow

It is easier to embrace the lies than to surrender to the truth. Realizing you’ve been deceived is an incredibly painful process; nevertheless, the sooner you let go, the sooner you can grow.
#grow #bloom #everbloomingroses #roses #TruthvsLies

Happy Passover

What a joy it is to celebrate the exodus of the Jewish people and decorate my home this Passover Spring season! Celebrating our “crossing over” or exodus from personal captivity as well as having empathy while pursuing justice for those still in captivity is an important tenet of Judaism. As a survivor, I speak out against domestic and familial violence this year and every year until there are #nomore victims. May those suffering from various forms of captivity choose to be ever-blooming despite the good, the bad, and the bugly…despite life’s prickly pain! Moreover, may God use each of us to remove the “leaven” of such adversities from our homes and society (Exodus 12:15, 19-20), while pursuing justice for those awaiting an exodus of their very own!

Ever-Blooming During Breast Cancer?

A couple of weeks ago, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the day God defines your upcoming year, I accidentally discovered a large lump in one of my breast. It was early in the morning and my breast itched. While laying there and upon scratching my breast, a large, hard lump made itself known. This upcoming Monday, October 5th, during Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles, which is all about depending on God during our wilderness journey as well as our eternal home, I have my first of presumably several doctor’s appointments.

Perhaps it is a large cyst, perhaps it is benign, or perhaps it is cancer. Regardless, I have learned to praise God, the One in complete control, the One who ordains each day, each trial, and each triumph. I trust Him and His will even if it doesn’t align with my own.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month as well as Domestic Violence Awareness. I have already overcome one and helped many others. Perhaps I will be overcoming another. No matter what the doctors, mammograms, and tests say, I have learned to praise God in all circumstances for in doing so, I have experienced peace, contentment, and even joy. That is the real, eternal miracle. Be ever-blooming despite the prickles! If you pray, I appreciate them on my behalf.

Update: As it turned out, the lump I felt was a cluster of cysts and not cancer. Yay God!

Ever-Blooming Roses During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: Borers of Bitterness

The destruction of a cane borer.

Borers of Bitterness

While puttering about my urban rose garden one Spring day, I discovered a hollow and dying cane on one of my hybrid teas. Though small and usually unseen, the rose borer impacts the life of a rose’s cane and possibly the entire plant. The rose borer is a worm like larvae that typically digs into and hollows out a freshly cut cane. They also target young more pliable canes to dig in to and set up their nests. A rose borer could be labeled as a good bug as it eats its share of aphids. However, the rose borer could easily be labeled a bad bug as well for it causes canes to wilt and die. Furthermore, some borers just keep digging until they reach the bud union at the base of the rose bush potentially causing the entire bush to perish.

​To protect your roses from borers, seal off freshly cut canes with a dab of Elmer’s multipurpose glue. Refrain from using Elmer’s school glue as rain fall or watering your roses can wash off the sealant. Also, in a pinch, you could drop clear nail polish on the end of a freshly cut cane, but be advised chemicals in the nail polish could damage the cane, which defeats the purpose. If you notice the damage of a borer, go ahead and cut back the cane until you reach the healthy filling of a cane. Upon doing so, seal off the end of it. With each cut you make of your canes, dab on the Elmer’s glue so the borers will eventually run out of options.

​“Bind this warning, ‘Seal the Torah within My disciples’.” Isaiah 8:16

Elmer’s Glue seals a rose cane.
Smokin’ Hot, a hybrid tea rose.

The internal damage an unsuspecting rose borer does to a rose bush reminds me of how easily the unrecognizable sins of unforgiveness and bitterness creeps within the canes of our soul. I have noticed in my own life, I tend to forgive others for their harmful behavior towards me, but often I fail to forgive myself for some of my own harmful and impacting decisions. Without even realizing it, hints of bitterness borrow deep into my canes. Nightmares and other circumstantial triggers clued me into such a wilting and potentially devastating issue hidden within my heart. Despite knowing God forgives those who repent (Psalm 103; Isaiah 1:16-20, 43:25), I would walk around with self-imposed shame, guilt, and condemnation. While I realize I cannot control the actions of others, I can control my choices. Unfortunately, we must live with the consequences of our choices and one particular decision haunted me for years.

Thankfully, upon realizing God’s love and lavish mercies, I could cut out the bitterness and unforgiveness bored deep within my soul, while sealing my heart and mind with His commandments like we seal the freshly cut cane with Elmer’s glue preventing further damage. When I reflect on His forgiveness, love, and instructions for living, I am free to flourish producing “ever-blooming roses”.

Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: Thistles, Thorns, and Now Thrips

‘Oregold’, a glorious hybrid-tea shines in shades of yellow.

Thistles, Thorns, and Now Thrips?

Nearly every morning I inspect my rose babies looking for damaging insects such as aphids, sawfly larvae, Japanese beetles, and thrips. Thrips, though terribly difficult to see, as are most of these critters, leave obvious evidence on fragrant or light-colored rose petals. By their very nature, thrips thrive by sucking the life out of the rose bud and its petals if they are even able to bloom. This summer I added the wonderfully fragrant, lavender colored Memorial Day rose to my garden. Just a few feet away I also planted Oregold, another hybrid tea rose, which produces a lovely bloom in vibrant yellow. Unfortunately, Memorial Day suffered from thrips. In a short amount of time, my Oregold rose also succumbed to them. I hadn’t known such microscopic creatures even existed until I noticed my Memorial Day rose petals had a bizarre brown edging. I hoped this delightful smelling rose bush was suffering from heat exhaustion. But even after thoroughly watering the bush in addition to the temperatures subsiding, shades of brown still smothered her every bud and bloom. Shortly thereafter, my Oregold, who once provided large layers of glorious yellow petals, now was hampered by dilapidated edges of brown or petals that appear dry and shriveled as well as buds that won’t open, all of which are common side effects of thrips.

Consequently, I went to the trusty internet to determine what is plaguing my newly adopted roses. After doing a little research, I took a closer look at my roses and could identify them. Yikes, it’s thrips! To determine just how bad the rose bushes were infested, I took a white piece of paper and tapped the blooms over the paper. Sure enough the once nearly invisible thrips were now clearly visible though ever so tiny! To ward them off, I hosed them down with water and then gave them regular dosing of neem oil. I prefer to use more organic measures than resorting to systematic insecticide. The infestation of thrips proves yet another example of why beneficial bugs like ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings are desperately needed in a garden as they love to feast on such devastating creatures.

“I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to the nations. To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison..” Isaiah 42:6-7

As I went about decontaminating my roses, I pondered on the simple fact that a light colored and or fragrant rose attracts such insects. Light, in general, attracts bugs. How interesting that sometimes though as we may live out a lifestyle of worship as the light of the world and emit a sweet aroma as daily living sacrifices, or simply as good, empathetic people, we too can attract pestilence in our lives. It would seem the more you blossom as a fragrant, light colored rose in God’s garden, those who choose to reject God, His ways, and do evil, find themselves harboring contempt towards you. Perhaps they don’t understand or more specifically, don’t want to understand. In fact, to them, your decision to strive to obey God’s teachings in Torah, which is defined as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23) and to live a lifestyle that reflects His light, may be more like a stench in their nostrils than an inviting fragrance.

​In particular, have you ever overcome something horrific while giving God all the glory for helping you be victorious? Some would have preferred to see you suffer or succumb to the thrip infestation as it sucked all joy from your petals of praise. Instead, you were willing to be anointed with God’s neem oil, if you will, or you chose to bask in His light rather than the darkness seemingly attacking you. You chose to thrive despite the thrips. You overcame your enemy and walked out of that battle with the enemy’s goods because you, through God’s grace, turned the experience into something beautiful as it molded your character. By doing so, you are emitting the sweet fragrance God enjoys as you triumphantly obey Him through thistles, thorns, and even thrips!

‘Memorial Day’, a highly fragrant hybrid-tea.