Several years ago a friend gave me a book, The Language of Flowers,which featured a blooming bouquet of flowers along with a descriptive verse on every page. She had written a note on the title page, “Bloom where you are planted.”
The book was beautiful, but her written note stuck in my mind. What does it mean to bloom where we are planted, and how do we go about doing it?
Susan Buchanan wrote a book, I’m Alive and the Doctor’s Dead, after her doctor predicted she would die of breast cancer. Seventeen years later she had outlived the doctor. She said that during chemotherapy, when she faced the possibility of death and was going through such a challenging time mentally and physically, she learned to look at life in an entirely new light. She learned to live deeply.
She writes, “It’s a dull, dreary day they say; Dear God, it’s a day! It’s brittle maybe, winter brittle, but there are tinges of gold and magenta off in the distance. And there are patterns! Patterns etched in the sky and on the ground. It could be shot in color subtle and pale. Perhaps black and white is better…to do justice to the patterns!”
She faced a life-threatening crisis and saw beauty where others saw dreariness. The specter of death couldn’t stifle her love of life. She said, “I’ve thrown off my dark glasses to welcome life’s possibilities.”
Can we, like Susan, create bouquets when life pierces our unsuspecting moments with thorns? Can we choose to bloom in a place we didn’t choose?
My grandson is severely autistic. At 10 years old he doesn’t speak and isn’t toilet trained. This isn’t the situation we would have chosen. It isn’t the environment we had planned. But one day I stopped by my son’s house and found him careening across the hardwood floors on a Hoverboard. His son (my grandson) clung to his back, squealing in delight. The other children (there are three) darted out of the way, screaming “My turn, daddy! I want to go next!” They laughed and played and weren’t thinking of the words my grandson couldn’t speak.
They were creating bouquets.
How do we throw off our dark glasses and see life’s possibilities? What mindset do we cultivate to create bouquets in the midst of thorns?
When I was a teenager I became seriously ill and had to be hospitalized. The worst part from my perspective was that it was summer and my family was all set to go on a long-planned beach trip. I dissolved into a pool of resentment, bitterness and anger.
My family left, except for my mother, who stayed behind to be with me. I selfishly didn’t think about her missing the trip, too. I was angry, self-pitying, and uncooperative until I finally surrendered to the reality that I was not going to the beach. My summer plans were ruined, but maybe some part of summer could still be salvaged. I stopped fighting against the unfairness that had landed me in a hospital while my father and siblings enjoyed the beach, and slowly I began to get well.
Surrender is a necessary key to blooming where we are planted.
But surrender doesn’t mean relinquishing goals and desires. These things are important and give us zest for life. Surrender in a positive sense means relinquishing the idea that circumstances must be a certain way for us to be happy. Surrender brings with it the realization that life can hold precious moments despite undesirable circumstances. We give up the belief that our chosen path is the only path.
Susan Buchanan wrote, “Life is like a surprise party, to which I accept its invitation to celebrate every morning.”
When we let go of rigid expectations we are open to surprise, but surrender without hope can lead to despair.
Hope is the necessary second key to blooming where we are planted.
Where do you find your hope? My hope is in my faith. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it in abundance.” Another person’s hope might be in the ultimate beauty of life despite its troubles. Some people discover hope in the opportunity to influence future generations, or to create something of lasting value.
When I worked at a nonprofit, a woman came to us for help because after she was diagnosed with cancer her husband left her and she was fired from her job. She had three children to care for and a long, arduous battle to wage against cancer. We gave her food from the food pantry, financial assistance to help out with rent, clothes from the thrift store, and our case workers held her hand in the hospital.
Several years went by and we lost touch. Then one day she showed up at the charity to donate food. “There were nights my children would have gone to bed hungry if not for the food pantry,” she said. “I’m healthy now, and have a new job. You gave me hope.”
Without hope, surrender leads to despair. With hope, we are open to possibilities. Good things can happen, and our future can change for the better.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said “We must accept the finite disappointment but never lose the infinite hope.”
One thing that destroys hope is bitterness, and the antidote to bitterness is gratitude.
Gratitude is a third key to blooming where we are planted.
As difficult as gratitude is when we are in the throes of a hard situation, it is the thing that keeps us from growing a root of bitterness.
Bitterness is a destroyer. No good comes from it. A bitter spirit spreads its poison and strangles the best within us.
Maybe we aren’t where we expected to be from a career standpoint, or we’re faced with illness, financial stress or relationship problems. We long to be in a different place but at present there appears to be no immediate way out.
We have two choices. We can grow a root of bitterness, or we can bloom where we are planted. Bitterness blames others, blames circumstances, blames life, blames God. It’s a downward spiral into joylessness, self-pity, depression and anger.
Gratitude rejoices in life, acknowledges blessings and leaves no room for blame.
In choosing to cultivate the rich soil of gratitude and hope, we produce bouquets. Rather than surrendering our dreams, we surrender the things that hold us back from our best life.
A little book, The Language of Flowers, sits on my shelf. And in it are the scribbled words, Bloom where you are planted.