Forced to Bloom

On a recent afternoon of yard work, I asked my sons to prune a small tree on the edge of our driveway. New growth threatened to grow over the asphalt; and my sons, ever enthusiastic to use garden tools with blades, happily went to work. When their excitement for the task waned, they headed off to play some football, leaving a pile of branches in the middle of the driveway.

As I gathered the branches to bring to our fire pit in the back, I noticed many of them had new buds forming. Ever the homeschool mom, I grabbed a couple and headed inside. Yard waste turned science lesson! Pulling a jar out of the cupboard, I set the branches in and filled the jar with water. We might not be able to affect the weather outside, but indoors we could make spring come just a little bit earlier. We’d force the branches to bloom.

I’ve always loved the process of forcing plants. There’s something fascinating and downright impish in tricking a plant to flower before its season. There are all kinds of tricks to the trade. A few drops of hydrogen peroxide in your pussy willow water. A small warming mat under your amaryllis bulbs. Whatever technique you might use, the effect is still the same. Beauty in a season when you do not expect it. Blooming in a fallow time.

Photo by Louis on

Yesterday, we marked nine months since Rob died. Nine months of grief and its myriad accompanying emotions. Nine months of a landscape that has looked and felt fallow and desolate. I can’t believe I’m closer now to the year anniversary of Rob’s death than I am to the day he died. Time has flown even if it still often feels at a standstill. What a strange and heartbreaking season this has been.

And yet, we are beginning to blossom in the same miraculous way that green leaves are sprouting on the bare branches in the jar beside my window. Rob’s death cut us off from the life we’d known before. Our lives were a pile of castaway sticks that appeared useless apart from the life we’d lived before. We too were as good as dead. 

But in his merciful kindness, God has preserved our family. His gracious hand has picked us up and placed us in a new and unfamiliar, uncomfortable environment — a life post-loss. He has generously provided the resources we need to keep surviving. You might say grief has forced us to bloom. If the rhythms of nature are to be trusted, our new lives, even in the midst of grief, will someday become things of beauty. 

I didn’t want to live a life apart from Rob. But I’m finding, with God’s gentle tending, I can do it. Since Rob’s death, I’ve been forced to grow in ways I never wished. I liked my life’s seasons and rhythms before. Nonetheless, I trust that God is always good. That his plans are always wise. That his heart is always for me. That his goal is always my flourishing for his glory.

God’s horticultural speciality is growing beautiful things in difficult circumstances.

God’s horticultural speciality is growing beautiful things in difficult circumstances. When fig trees do not bloom, God still works. Where we see only desolation, he promises flourishing. The prophet Isaiah promises, “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom.” In this season of grief, this is my hope too — that God will grow something beautiful from my life.

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