The author of “Thanksgiving and Thorns” is unknown but the message is timely. Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving and Thorns


Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, an automobile accident stole her ease.


During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. “She has no idea what I’m feeling,” thought Sandra with a shudder.


Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?


“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The shop clerk’s approach startled her.


“I… I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.


“For Thanksgiving? Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving “Special?” asked the shop clerk. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this Thanksgiving?”


“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.” Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”


Then the door’s small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, “Hi, Barbara …let me get your order.” She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.


“Want this in a box?” asked the clerk. Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.


“Yes, please,” Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again.” She said as she gently tapped her chest.


“Uh,” stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uh… she just left with no flowers!”


“Right, said the clerk, “I cut off the flowers. That’s the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”


“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that!” exclaimed Sandra.


“Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today,” explained the clerk. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.”


“That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk, “and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”


“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.


“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly. “I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and never to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”


Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”


Just then someone else walked in the shop. “Hey, Phil!” shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.



“My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement… twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.


“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”


“No…I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem.


He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from “thorny” times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.”


As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”


“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life.” Sandra said to the clerk. “It’s all too…fresh.”


“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”


Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.


Praise Him for your roses; thank him for your thorns.


God comforts us in our trials so that we can comfort others in their trials with the same comfort that we received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).



Nancy Jones · November 24, 2013 at 4:16 am

Helen died 18 months ago of a vicious brain cancer. It was really hard to watch the cancer take over her previously healthy body until eventually her heart stopped beating. During her death watch we never really talked about the need for control that kept the 2 of us from being very close. Each of us had a big need to be in control and somehow we had difficulty saying that we needed each other. Well, really we did need each other, but there was sometimes a chasm that is hard to explain. Helen chose a house in the neighborhood just a 1/2 mile from her childhood home (with her parents still living there).One would have expected that we saw each other frequently but we did not. Neither of us made a particular effort to call or see each other very often, and now we can’t. Ironically, her husband Steve calls often and keeps me in the loop with what is happening to the girls and him. He didn’t do that before Helen died, but he senses the need to do it now. Thank heavens.
This chasm that Helen and never talked about was not one-sided. I don’t know why I didn’t put more effort into talking with Helen. There were difficulties raising her. She was very obstinate about toilet training and I became so frustrated. Then we also had arguments about the dresses she would wear. At 18 – 20 months she wanted to pick out her clothes (from the store!)Occasionally we would strike a bargain and she would agree to wear the pink frilly dress I wanted if she could wear the plainer, but also attractive dresses more often. Later as a teen ager I finally convinced her that I really needed to know if she were going to be late leaving her job at Hardee’s –where they had a tendency to work an extra 30-40 min. It was during a time when several girls had been raped and Helen was driving home from work late at night by herself.

As I write this I realize that there were many ways in which Helen and I were very close. Just putting them down reminds me of many ways we shared our lives. I wish I’d realized what a joy it would’ve been to put more effort into sharing more. In Helen’s honor I will share more with my family and friends.

    larrydavies · December 1, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    What a difficult story to share. Yet somehow you managed to be close in the midst of your struggles. It seems that control was a difficult issue but somehow you managed to work through it. May God bless you for having the courage and faith to share. God bless, Larry

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