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 my Abba Father, 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.

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 Abba Father (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 our Father’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, 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 Him or merely believe in God but don’t live according to His instructions, 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 obey God and His 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 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.

Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: Bee A Good Hostess

A bee enjoys ‘Fourth of July’, a climbing rose.

Bee A Good Hostess​

One may think bugs, any and all bugs, are pesky nuisances invading our glorious garden, but the truth is without many of them, our garden wouldn’t thrive. Not only do insects, such as the honey bee, provide important roles, but they provide a variety of products as well like certain medications, candles, cosmetics, furniture polish, and of course, honey! Other insects, though ugly and inconvenient, provide proper nutrients to the good insects our garden needs. Often found roaming around our rose gardens are beneficial bugs like lady bugs, hoverflies, and lacewings. Conversely, bad bugs for our roses are aphids, thrips, and sawflies to name just a few. But are they really all that bad? After all, without the “bad” bugs the good bugs would have nothing to sustain them. Did you know just one adult ladybug can devour 50-60 aphids in day?

Most gardeners just want the bad bugs gone without considering the overall environmental factors. While you could spray your rose bushes with insecticide to kill off the bad bugs, you’ll also harm the good ones. Other organic methods include purchasing neem oil concentrate from your local nursery. Be sure to carefully follow the mixing directions though and only apply neem oil during the early morning, evening hours, or on an overcast day as spraying neem oil on your rose foliage during high heat days will burn the leaves. Another option in preventing bad bugs like thrips and the dreaded Japanese Beetle from infesting your rose plants would be to release Heterorhabditis Bacteriophora Nematodes into the soil. These small worm like creatures will seek out and destroy many annoying and dangerous threats to your rose garden before they have a chance to be seen!

graphic source unknown

​Moreover, assuming you will want your rose garden to thrive for years to come, it would behoove you, the Master Gardener, to be a good hostess by creating an inviting environment for the beneficial bugs to reside. In some ways, bugs are much like us in the sense that they need food, shelter, and water. They also appreciate convenience.

By providing a steady food source, you’ll keep your lady bugs, lacewings, and hoverflies happy. But before the aphid buffet shows up in the Spring, you’ll need to provide plant life that will nourish your good bugs earlier in the season. By planting herbs that bloom early and also provide good nectar, the good bugs will want to move into the neighborhood! Herbs such as mustard, dill, and parsley will be sufficient. You many also want to plant lavender, but leave room for growth as lavender tends to consume much space. Mint and thyme will provide a soothing smell to your garden while Angelica, is not just the name of my youngest daughter, but an herb that especially attracts ladybugs – bonus!

graphic source unknown

In addition to the herbs, you’ll also need a bird bath, water feature, pond, or other water source free of chemicals like chlorine. Apparently, even bugs get thirsty and need a bath now and then! Once you’ve created such a welcoming open house, or rather, open garden, it won’t be long before the good bugs set up a nursery of their own by laying their eggs on

our rose foliage. But when the weather turns cooler, don’t let your hard work go to waste, be sure to provide them with ornamental grasses and soft wood twigs and branches, like willow, poplar, and ash for them to stay cozy throughout the winter months. Whether you are a novice gardener or expert, your roses will appreciate your efforts as you build an inviting and thriving rose garden.

For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you. And you will seek Me and find [Me] for you will seek Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

When I compare the similarities of our garden to our lives, it’s interesting to note how God allows the bad bugs in our garden of life to manifest something spectacular in us as well as God’s heartfelt intention towards us. So often we blame evil or Satan, as the source of our troubles forgetting that even Satan had to seek God’s approval before doing any harm to our garden (see the book of Job). In other words, God, as the Master Gardener, recognizes the bad bugs, but perhaps He’s allowing them in our garden for a reason. Perhaps the reason is to discipline us for our disobedience or perhaps He is developing us into the fragrant, beautiful, disease-resistant rose He intended with no actual wrong-doing on our part such as the accounts of Joseph, Job, or Esther. However, other times, the unfortunate turn of events may actually be a result of our own unrighteousness. In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet repeatedly warned of the Jewish people being taken captive should they continue to live as they desire rather than live as God desires found in the Torah. The Prophet Jeremiah foretold the Jewish people would be taken captive by Babylon for 70 years, but in the end, that God was using it all to cause them to repent, to seek Him with their whole heart, and in turn God will gladly regather them and bless them while continuing to teach them His ways and will for them as the light to the world. Interestingly, this same prophetic word is applicable to the future of the Jewish people and others who keep God’s holy covenant eventually being gathered to Jerusalem, Mount Zion, in Israel as a light to the world one fine new day (see Jeremiah 29-31; Isaiah 51-56, 60-62, 65-66; Ezekiel 36-37; Hosea 14; Zechariah 8-10, as a few examples).

​I want to reiterate the fact that often the seemingly bad bugs attacking us as rose plants could have been released for the sole purpose of teaching us how to reflect our Master Gardener’s glory and splendor to a dark world needing to be enlightened in God’s light and love. How even more glorious and brilliant and yet challenging it is to be ever-blooming, testifying of His love, His wisdom, His justice, and His will when you are currently living amongst the pestilence of life!

In a perplexing manner, God is being a good host as He continues to develop His righteousness in you. He is busy creating a holy, eternal garden or environment where you and others may indefinitely thrive by allowing not just the good experiences or good bugs to benefit from you, but by equally, if not more so, using the bad and down-right ugly experiences to also cultivate beauty.

In doing so, His intention is to develop an ever-thriving, ever-rejoicing, and ever-blooming garden of God within you during the good, the bad, and the bugly. How we respond to such pests and said treatments remains to be seen.

“For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9-10

An unidentified beetle enjoys the foliage of a rose.

Ever-Blooming Despite Life’s Prickles: Deadheading Redirect

‘Miranda Lambert’, a hybrid tea succumbs to the end of her bloom cycle.

Deadheading Redirect

Once a rose has bloomed, its goal is to reproduce. To accomplish such a task, the blossom extinguishes its petals, and if pollinated by a bee, bird, or human, it will eventually transform into a rose hip. The rose hip is essentially a pod of rose seeds fulfilling the plant’s purpose of being fruitful and multiplying. However, if the gardener snips away the spent bloom, also known as “deadheading”, then the plant redirects its energy to produce yet more blooms. Various rose bushes, such as the floribunda variant, tend to produce multiple clusters of glorious blooms. Should one rose blossom and fade yet still is left amongst the plethora of other blooms, the spent bloom demands energy that could otherwise be redirected towards the remaining blooms in the cluster. Alternatively, the gardener could simply snip the spent rose so the energy is redirected to the remaining thriving buds or blooms. On a hybrid tea variant, the gardener could potentially remove all the budding blooms while leaving only one to flourish. The remaining bud will then produce a larger and more beautiful rose than if it was left to compete with the other burgeoning buds.

“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” Psalm 119:2

As I have evolved in my Biblical studies and come into understanding more and more of God’s holy word, I realized I have been exposed to and believed in many fallacies over the years. Ultimately, after grieving such popular deception, I opted to “deadhead” those spent blooms so my energy could be redirected to produce healthier and more spiritually accurate, full blooms. In doing so, I learned to alter and prioritize in my life what is important according to God’s word instead of what some may teach or assume is truth. I ultimately carefully examined my heart, my mind, my lifestyle, then accordingly, repented, and redirected myself to love the Lord with all of my purged heart, mind, and being to the best of my ability. I realized the more I come to know Abba Father and His word, the more I realize I know nothing at all!

“With my whole heart I have sought You!” Psalm 119:10

Moreover, I found myself relating to David’s many psalms, particularly Psalm 119 as he embraced God’s instructions instead of rejecting them. David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), goes on to scribe in verse 34 of Psalm 119, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”

In time, I discovered the secret to producing a beautiful spiritual garden while being fruitful and multiplying isn’t necessarily producing multiple seeds or nourishing a plethora of blooms unknowingly propagating lies and error; rather, when we become aware and are willing to deadhead all the unnecessary deceptions and distractions, redirecting our energy on meditating on Abba Father and His Word while keeping His commandments, we then find ourselves ever-blooming, despite life’s prickles.​

‘Memorial Day’, a fragrant hybrid tea rose blooms with ‘Paul’s Scarlet Climber’ in the background.

Ever-Blooming Despite Life’s Prickles: The Japanese Beetle

A Japanese Beetle enjoys the petals of a rose.

The Lesson of The Japanese Beetle

I usually putter amongst my small but flourishing rose garden monitoring and pruning away the dried branches, weeds, and spent blossoms. One particular summer though, my attention focused elsewhere as I failed to keep a careful watch over my beloved buds. In my goings to and fro, I noticed one or two Japanese Beetles enjoying the fruits of my labor as they nestled on my bud’s petals and her leaves. Unfortunately, I was too consumed in my own world to pay attention to the destruction right beneath my nose! Over time, my rose bushes were devastated and apparently well known by the JB community as the all you can eat smorgasbord. Consequently, I realized that I needed to regularly monitor the activities lurking in my garden if I was going to ward off such damaging predators in the future. In fact, to do so, I filled my little Tupperware container with soapy water and went hunting! Time to enforce my garden’s much needed boundaries! Beetle-hunting is quite easy actually and surprisingly fun. All you have to do is look closely at your rose buds, find your enemy lurking underneath, then tap the branch and catch them as they land in the soapy water. Once you’ve trapped these pesky pests, you’ll experience a strange sense of relief as you watch the enemy drown. Clearly, my burgeoning buds must be examined should I hope to rescue them from the evil anxious to devour them. Interestingly enough, though one bush may be purified, the nightmare could still show up yet again in another unsuspecting bush.

​As I set out to continuously conquer such small but damaging insects, I thought how similar sin is in our own lives. Often sin starts off quite small and unnoticeable as we go about our busy lives. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it surfaces enough to nearly ruin our lives and once it’s done so, it proceeds to affect those around us also.

“Let us look closely at our ways and examine them and then return to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40.

​The Japanese Beetle teaches me to daily and carefully examine the garden of my heart so as to seek out and destroy any pests hiding within my budding soul for it is only then those around me will smell the sweet aroma of my lifestyle as my form of a daily sacrifice (Numbers 28).

Ever-Blooming Roses Despite Life’s Prickles: Summer Storms

‘Oregold’, a yellow hybrid tea rose, is pounded by heavy rains.

Summer Storms

After an unexpected summer storm struck my rose garden, I reflect on the weighted canes drooping with defeat. The once glorious petals litter the ground crying out for vindication. Though not entirely destroyed, each bush whines in the aftermath as they obviously would have preferred a slow steady rain than a fast and furious gusty storm. Given some time, I’m confident such defeated canes will overcome the unexpected afternoon flash. Although they can’t appreciate the drenching rains now, the hot boiling sun will soon stir thanksgiving as they draw on the well saturated roots beneath the steaming heat.​

The long canes of ‘Fourth of July’, a climbing rose, succumb to the pounding rains.

Just as our roses can experience an unpredicted and drowning storm, we too are taken by surprise when Abba Father allows fast and furious storms, like betrayal, abuse, lay-offs, cancer, or death to brew in our garden of life. Upon such devastation, we often whine in their aftermath, “Why me?” or “This isn’t fair, God!” But what if instead, we could raise our canes in praise and say, “I don’t know what You are doing, Abba, but I trust You!” What if despite such heartache, we could cling to the words of Isaiah 26:3-4, “With perfect peace you will protect those whose minds cannot be changed, because they trust you. Trust in the LORD forever, for in Yah, the LORD is everlasting strength.” Other translations say the “Rock of eternity”.

Sometimes I bravely praise my “Rock” in such storms while other times, I’d rather hide under a rock in my anxiety. I may even look for temporary relief of such unexpected sorrow by hiding in my isolated, secret garden. But during such harrowing times, I am tenderly reminded, “I alone am the one who comforts you. Why, then, are you afraid of mortals, who must die, of humans, who are like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12). Whatever tragedy you face, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11 or 46:10 in the Christian Bible). After all, our God, our Creator, our Aleph and Tav, knows our beginning and our end and every purpose in between. Breathe in the smell after a saturating storm and choose to trust that Abba Father’s still got this.

‘Oregold’, a hybrid tea, brightly blooms with Paul’s Scarlett Climber glowing in the background.

She Blooms

No matter what season we may find ourselves in, Mother’s Day tends to be a sensitive day for women (and even their children too). Holidays like these have a peculiar way of annunciating all life has thrown at us… But today, this year, on this Mother’s Day, it is well with my soul. Whether we are barren or a full house, whether missing the wayward child or moms passed away, whether we are grieving over children lost or celebrating children or grandchildren gained, or any other matter life presents us, I pray we choose to be ‘ever-blooming’ through it all. Every rose has thorns, fights disease, and is attacked by pests, and yet, she blooms.


(This rose I photographed reminded me of my 4 children)