ROSE IN BLOOM
“Who needs a husband and babies when I have all this?” Kennedy Rose swept her hand Vanna-White-style to encompass her florist shop. Amaryllis, carnations, delphinium, oriental lilies, tulips, daffodils, and, of course, roses. Riotous spring color on this frosty February 13th.
Her proclamation was met with an unladylike snort. “You keep telling yourself that.” Maggie waggled a sprig of baby’s breath at her. “It’ll be small comfort in your old age.” She rubbed her T-shirt-clad baby bump, which was growing larger by the day.
As Kennedy watched her best friend caress what would soon be child number two, a pang of envy squeezed her heart. Or maybe it was the sriracha sauce she’d doused her pot stickers with at lunch. Whatever. She focused on the glittery red hearts she’d stuck in the storefront the week before. “When the right man comes along—”
“You’ll be so buried in blooms, you won’t recognize him.” Maggie retrieved her purse from behind the counter. “Thanks for lunch. I hate to eat and run, but I want to get home before Cody wakes from his nap.”
“No problem.” She had to admit, the scent of Cody’s petal-soft neck could rival that of an American Beauty rose.
“And when Jason comes in tomorrow for my Valentine’s bouquet, remind him I like pink roses. Or red. Not yellow.” She shook her head. “Where he got the idea that yellow means romance, I don’t know.”
“Be thankful you have a husband who cares enough to buy you flowers at all.” Kennedy winced. She’d become her mother. When did that happen?
Maggie stopped, one hand on the door, eyebrow cocked. “You know what your problem is?”
“My biological clock?”
“You’re too picky.”
“I have standards, my friend. And they aren’t even that high. All I ask is that the man I marry be faithful, kind, and romantic.” She raised a finger. “Oh, and employed.”
“You’re looking for a Boy Scout, not a husband.”
“I’m not looking at all.” Waiting, but not looking.
“That’s another one of your problems. You think the perfect man is going to just appear out of nowhere. But as long as you’re holed up in this shop, the only men you’ll meet are the ones who are already attached.” She pulled the door open and nearly collided with a man who was entering.
He side-stepped and held the door open. “After you.”
Kennedy squelched a bark of laughter at Maggie’s exaggerated swoon through the storefront window behind his back.
“Have I done something amusing?” The deep voice drew her attention away from her friend’s antics.
A pair of hydrangea-blue eyes sucked the air from her lungs.
“Uh, not at all.” Face warm, Kennedy snatched up the flowers she’d been arranging. An amateur move, she realized when a hot stab of pain shot through her hand. Disengaging the thorn, she pressed her thumb against her green canvass apron to soak up the drop of blood. “What can I do for you?”
He motioned to her hand. “You okay?”
“Oh, just peachy.” The warmth in her cheeks rose a degree or two. “I assume you’re here for flowers.”
He nodded. “You assume correctly. I’d like something for a very special lady.”
Of course. “Roses are the flower of choice this time of year.”
He squinted. “Too cliché, don’t you think?”
“That’s entirely up to you.”
He perused the shop. “Nice place you’ve got.” He wrinkled his nose. “But doesn’t the heavy aroma of flowers get to you after a while?”
Kennedy inhaled. “Nope. I love it. It’s eternally spring in here.”
He took her business card from the holder by the register. “Kennedy Rose?”
“Actually, it’s Kennedy Rose Marin. But for business reasons, I opted to drop my last name.”
“I’m Trent Carter.” He stuck out his hand. His warm fingers enveloped hers.
A zing of heat shot through her, and she tugged her hand free.
“Have you worked here long?”
“I own the shop.”
“Then you must be an expert at picking out just the right bouquet.”
He had her there. “Tell me something about the recipient, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“She’s adventurous. Loves nature, babies, and romance.”
“Well, who doesn’t?” They shared a grin.
Was this to be her destiny? Helping attractive men pick out just the right flowers to woo their girlfriends and wives? “Is she a traditionalist or a trendsetter?”
He tilted his head. “She’s a classy lady. But spontaneous enough to sport a hot-pink streak in her hair.”
Kennedy did a mental eye-roll. “I put together some bouquets this morning that might be perfect for her.” She slipped from behind the counter and walked to one of the glass-fronted refrigerator units. “If pink’s her color, there are a few here that might be to her liking.” She motioned to the shelves of bouquets. “What do you think?”
“I think you have beautiful green eyes.
Was he flirting with her while picking out flowers for a girlfriend? Of all the nerve! “I meant the flowers.”
He pointed to a collection of gladiolas, amaryllis, and delphinium. “I’ll take those.”
“Fine.” She grabbed the vase and marched back to the counter. The sooner she got this guy out of her shop, the better. “Would you like a card to go with them?” Her voice was frostier than the vase, but she didn’t care. He deserved the cold shoulder.
“Have I offended you in some way?”
“Not at all.” She sniffed. “I’ll just ring these up for you.” Her fingers fumbled at the register. Lips tight, she slid his purchase toward him. “I hope your girlfriend enjoys them.” The words were forced through gritted teeth.
His baby blues crinkled with confusion. “These aren’t for my girlfriend.”
Wife, then. Even worse! “It’s really no business of mine who they’re for.”
After paying for the flowers, he pulled out a small card and set it on the counter. “I’d love it if you’d call me sometime.”
Was he kidding?
Before the door closed behind him, Kennedy tossed the card into the trash without even reading it.
# # #
The Rose Garden was hopping all day long on February 14th. Husbands and boyfriends who’d waited until the last minute converged on the shop like a swarm of locusts and left nothing behind but a few sorry-looking bouquets. Valentine’s Day was always good for business, but it didn’t soothe Kennedy’s ego much.
What’s wrong with her? One minute she denied the desire for a husband, and the next she was moping about not having one.
Head buried in the refrigerator, Kennedy was gathering up fallen leaves and a collection of wilted stems when the tinkle of the bell over the door caught her attention. “I’m afraid I don’t have much left,” she said without turning.
“Oh, you might be surprised.”
Spinning toward the melodic voice, her nose nearly collided with the refrigerator door. A puff of cold air escaped from her mouth.
An elderly woman stood in the doorway of the shop. Her hair was pure white with one bold streak of hot pink. This couldn’t be Trent Carter’s amour, could it?
“I’m Amelia Carter.” She took three sure steps, shoulders back, and a mischievous grin on her lips. “Might you be Kennedy Rose?”
“I’m Trent’s grandmother.” Her dainty hand gave Kennedy’s a firm squeeze. “The flowers were lovely.”
“So he’s not—” Kennedy snapped her lips shut. She wouldn’t look good with her size sevens crammed inside her mouth.
“Not what?” The twinkle in her eye bespoke amusement.
She gulped. “Attached?”
“I suppose that would depend on you, dear.”
Kennedy bit her cheek in an effort to hold in the silly grin that was trying its best to break free.
“My grandson would be appalled if he knew I was here. But you were all he talked about at dinner last night. You and your charming store.” She held up a crooked finger. “I think he might be smitten.”
Air would be good right now. And some sort of comprehensible reply.
“I hope to see you again, Miss Kennedy Rose.” Amelia left with a wave and a smile.
The sweet woman wasn’t quite out of sight before Kennedy dove toward the trash can.
In this world of independence and impatience, we are often on the fast track to disappointment. We want what we want now and don’t trust God, in His infinite wisdom, to come through for us. Rather than wait on His timing, we step around Him. But if we delight in Him first, He will bestow on us the desires of our heart.
What is it that you have been waiting for? Have you given it to the Lord and trusted He has a perfect plan for you? Or are you striving to make it happen in your strength and timing?
Katherine Scott Jones
Stories to Celebrate Beauty
One wintry day, I jogged along a local trail. Autumn’s brilliance had come and gone, leaving behind stripped trees and steel-hued skies. Not the loveliest time of year, nor my favorite season. As I ran, my thoughts drifted toward an unlovely gray to match my surroundings. Until I rounded a bend and was confronted with brilliance: a vibrant holly bush twining up an otherwise colorless birch. The sight stopped me mid-stride.
My breath slowed and cold seeped into my stilled limbs, but I didn’t care. I was too busy admiring the holly bush’s prettiness, rendered lovelier still by its very unexpectedness. And it dawned on me that this offered a picture of the message I want my stories to convey. I want to notice beauty in the midst of bleakness—and celebrate it.
Our world is broken and will remain so until Jesus comes again. Every day, in every place, we encounter the world’s wounds: estrangement, disappointment, loneliness, injustice, poverty. The darkness is insidious and inescapable. Like the gray days of a Northwest winter.
But in the midst of it…beauty! And in beauty, God Himself revealed. When we feast on beauty, we feast on Him. It is a form of worship, asking not for help or a solution (though of course He always welcomes pleas for these). We are simply enjoying Him, satisfied with Him alone.
As believers in Jesus, the hope of heaven empowers us to live well in this broken world that is passing away. Beauty on earth provides peepholes into heaven. Celebrating beauty is one way to fix our eyes on Jesus. In doing so, we drive away darkness, allowing us to not only endure but to triumph in the midst of brokenness.
Do you begin to see why I desire not simply to see beauty, but to celebrate it?
And why I read and write stories that do the same.
It can be a great temptation to deny ourselves these small celebrations of beauty, of joy, and gratitude, when we know that others around us are hurting. But the reality is that denying ourselves joy does nothing to help anyone else. Instead, when we allow moments of beauty to soak into the deepest crevices of our souls, it fills us up so that we may overflow it onto others.
Jesus never meant for us to give or act or serve from a position of impoverishment, but abundance. Feasting on beauty is one powerful way to fill ourselves because it fills us with God Himself. Which places us in a position to overflow that goodness onto others. To serve out justice as a people with plentiful resources helping those without.
We have opportunity to see beauty everywhere, needing only eyes that recognize the grace notes God writes into our lives. Like being surprised by a pop of color on an otherwise gray winter’s day.
Susan K. Beatty
Part Two of Lessons I Learned from My Novel
Perhaps you read my article in the February #BecauseFiction Magazine about our family’s set of trials and how I learned lessons on courage from the characters in my novel, Faces of Courage.
You may remember (but it’s okay if you don’t because I probably wouldn’t—my memory is good, just short) I said our trials really weren’t that bad, no one was dying or anything.
I shouldn’t have spoken so fast. No one died, but it was close. My husband had a heart attack last month and he could have died. I praise the Lord He spared my husband’s life that day. It was the capstone (thus far!) on two months of trials, some of which we’re still dealing with.
If I felt weak and wondering how I would survive before this episode, perhaps you can imagine how I felt during and after this new trial.
Reading about how heart attacks manifest themselves and witnessing one are two wildly different scenarios, at least for us. His looked nothing like what I’d read about, which meant there was confusion as to whether we needed paramedics and then a wild ride to the hospital. I beat the ambulance to the ER. Waiting outside the hospital because, you know, COVID. I could have waited in the lobby by myself, but our kids came to wait with me. We set up folding lawn chairs on a cemented area just outside the lobby doors.
It would have been festive except for the occasion. Keep in mind, our all-family get-togethers since COVID have been on Zoom for the last eleven months. Two of my adult children are high risk. This was not the reunion I had in mind.
The point of my last article was I had learned a lot about courage from my Faces of Courage main character, Olivia. And that my trials were puny compared to hers. Well, in many ways, they still don’t stack up to hers, but they got closer.
So, how’d I do in the courage department compared to Olivia? Was my faith strong enough to trust the Lord and apply my grit?
I was reminded of Psalm 56 in which David said, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” In 1 Chronicles 28:20, David told his son Solomon to not be afraid or discouraged. Through these verses and many others, the Holy Spirit continually reminded me to trust in God and not be fearful.
Just as Olivia was reminded.
Once again, my real life mirrored that of my character, at least as far as needing the same lessons in courage at the intersection of faith and grit.
My husband’s doing well; however, his road to recovery will no doubt be dotted with landmines waiting to blow my courage to bits if I’m not careful to trust Him in all things.
Faces of Courage will be released on May 11. It’s available for pre-order in Kindle format. Paperback will be available eventually. In the meantime, two companion books, House of Courage and Isobel’s Mission of Courage are available now.
Isobel, in Isobel’s Mission of Courage, has her own trials that force her, with the help of a homeless woman whom she befriends, to acknowledge her own shortcomings and look to her Savior for the faith and grit she needs.