Published 2:34 pm Sunday, September 24, 2023

I overheard the woman sitting near me, “Don’t look at my nails, I’ve been working in my roses.” Roses? I followed her comment with some questions of my own about growing roses. She repeated everything I had read in my abbreviated studies of rose gardening: Buy hardy plants that are well rooted; keep them mulched and feed them often; spray, spray, spray to rid Mississippi plants of their muggy-loving fungi; make sure they have a t least six hours of full sun; keep their beds clean and weeded; and for all the hard work reap a bounty of beauty and fragrance.

That evening I walked past the few roses I called my garden and laughed to myself for even thinking it resembled a garden. My year’s cycle of life had squeezed rose gardening out of my schedule, and the results were disheartening. My spray bottle sat in cobwebs on the storage shelf with a remnant of last year’s bug spray. That’s why my roses were half-dressed in brown-spotted leaves. A couple of them were tall and willowy. “Bush” didn’t come close to a description. The towering oaks had greedily reached for more of the sun that had once nurtured my roses.

Last year’s mulch was washed far away and had left ample room for vigorous varieties of grasses that seemed more than content with the growing conditions. A small oak seedling had taken root and had integrated the once selected row of roses. Part of the rock border was submerged under the weeds that had sought for their space.

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I gave my roses credit for hanging on during the drought and neglect of their caretaker.  There were random signs of new growth and two or three blooms — we’re talking bud vase and not bouquet caliber. They were the quality of a miniature rose bush, but not the saucer-sized blooms I had seen. Their feedings had been absent, and it showed!

I seriously doubt that any of my surviving plants will weather the winter. Now I’m confronted with what to do with the “garden.” I can dig up the strugglers, remove the border and give the grass free rein or I can begin again.

My schedule will pressure me to abandon the garden, but I need its lessons. If I neglect the weeding of little sins in my life, they will grow up and choke it. If I neglect the feeding on God’s Word and time in prayer, I’m an easy target for all kinds of predators that would try and destroy the life God intends for me. If I don’t prune the distractions from my life, fruit-bearing will be affected. If I allow sin’s darkness to rob me of the light of God’s presence, my life will be weak and ineffective.

It’s obvious, roses — like Christians — don’t fulfill their design unless they bloom. And when the harsh winds of life blow through our “garden,” we’ll know that the fragrance of Christ will flow out into the lives around us.

Letters to Camille Anding may be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602.