Thankful for the Thorns

THE BLESSING OF 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, a minor 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 annual 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 aloud. 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…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 very 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, I had to spend 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 thought 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 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 to Him 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.

“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?” asked Sandra.

“Nothing.” said the clerk. “Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you’d like to read it first.”

It read: “Dear God, I have never thanked you for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of your rainbow look much more brilliant.”

Committed Non-Shopper Gets Sucked In – Would Rather Go to the Dentist

I am a committed non-shopper.  Would rather visit a dentist than shop.   When I do shop, it’s kamikaze-shopping.   Know what you’re looking for, grab it quick, then escape.   Having said that, for some unbelievably-stupid reason, I let myself get sucked into Black Friday last year.   I had a garage project underway, and felt a Detroit Lakes Menards visit might be worth the Black Friday pain.   Got there just about opening time (pulling a trailer), and the parking lot was already full, with cars parked about ¼ mile down the access road.   Shudda tucked my tail between my legs and headed home.   Didn’t.   Found myself a place to squeeze truck/trailer, and headed to the store.   No carts available.   See above regarding tail between legs.   Finally got a cart that had a banshee-screech front wheel.  Normally, this would be a detriment, but it was an asset, because it acted just like those fakey deer warning whistles were supposed to work.  I have bad hearing, and wear hearing aids.  Another asset, because I was able to turn off my hearing aids.   However, normal people heard me bearing down on them, and bailed left and bailed right.   Which was good, because were it not for that, I woulda needed Moses to get anywhere.   Had a hit list of items I wanted to grab.   However, because it was Black Friday, none of them were in their normal spot.   My Moses Cart kept me moving, but just barely.   Found a couple of items, and by then crowd-uphobia was in full swing.   The kicker was when I finally found the table saw that was on sale…which was the main reason for my sucked-in trip.   It happened to be the last one, but it was a Mickey Mouser.  In fact, it was a sub-Mickey Mouser.  A real turd.   Tail-between-the-legs time.   Checkout line musta wrapped around the inside of the store twice.    Had two choices:  1) admit defeat, abandon cart and head home or 2) shuffle through the checkout line.   Chose the latter, not sure why, and regretted the decision.   I think it was about 3 hours after startup that I finally emerged.   Never again.   Never, never, never, never NEVER!!!!  I’ve already made my dental appointment for Friday morning.   Looking forward to it.

 

Chuck Johnson

Not a Black Friday fan

No, no Black Friday.  No, never did do Black Friday,  No, spend time with family instead.  Invite those that can’t or won’t travel and have no family in the area to come over for dinner.  Yes, we usually get out and pheasant hunt if the weather is amenable.

Consumerism?  You’ve got to be kidding.  Even at Christmas, we rarely gift between adults over 18.  It has to be something very special and rarely is it more than one or two things.  I don’t recall having gifts for my wife (or her for me) for the past couple of decades.  Christmas is for kids.

Ts

Put this on your bucket list!

Black Friday in my family is synonymous to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all other holidays that we celebrate. Well, at least for us girls. For as long as I can remember, my mom and I have ventured out early Friday morning to scope out the season’s best gifts and incredible sales. Over the years we have conducted our “holiday” in Watertown (SD), Bloomington (MN), Eden Prairie (MN), and Sioux Falls (SD); which, up until recently, was our “go-to” spot. Every year started out the same, get up and leave home by 7:00AM to make the 80 mile drive to Sioux Falls, where our first stop would be Kohl’s. One year, my mom took a record-breaking (jaw-dropping?) FOUR hours in Kohl’s alone. Granted, a good share of the time is spent standing in line. But we don’t mind that, it  is part of the ever-growing tradition as we get to the experience the holiday spirit with the fellow shoppers around us.

The event started with my mom and myself, but some years my grandma, an aunt, or a bit regrettably, my brother and dad have joined in. Finally, my sister, being 11, has now begun to anticipate the day as much as we do. She has tagged along for the past seven years or so, becoming my partner in crime in the quest to find the perfect gifts for our brother, parents, and extended family.

This year will be the third year that my mom and my sister have come to stay with me in Fargo and completed our day’s adventures among the throng of fellow shoppers at Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, and the Mall. Once October rolls around, mom and I begin to scope out the leaked ads online and prepare a list of items we are hoping to pick up. Once Wednesday rolls around, I drive the three hours to southwestern Minnesota to visit my family and have Thanksgiving lunch. Come Thanksgiving afternoon, I turn around, with mom and sister in tow, and drive the three hours back to Fargo/Moorhead. We analyze who needs what, where our first stop will be, and often what restaurant will refuel us for lunch… and supper… on Black Friday.

We still manage to get up and be at our first destination by 7:30-8:00AM, but with the deals beginning as soon as 8pm on Thanksgiving, we have had to tweak our plans the last couple of years. This year, you will find us at the 52nd Ave Walmart at 8:00PM on Thursday and Target around 9:00. Friday morning, we will be at Kohl’s, mostly looking to restock our own closets for the upcoming winter. Lunch typically follows at Olive Garden, where we get some warm soup, carbs, and caffeine to make it through the next 6-8 hours of miscellaneous stops. Saturday we venture to downtown, where we support the local businesses by purchasing the more unique and appreciated gifts. After grabbing a quick lunch, it is usually time to say our goodbyes until I head back home for the “other” holiday we call Christmas.

Some people call us three Hansen women crazy for doing what we do every year. Now, we have never been the so-called “die-hards” who camp out in a tent at Best Buy. Typically, it’s not about the super deals we may encounter, but the overall experience of having us three girls together for one full day of uninterrupted holiday cheer, bonding time, and a bit of shopping. The memories I have over the years are completely immeasurable. We often reflect on the time the three of us had a “wild hair” to go to Sioux Falls Thursday night, only to watch from our hotel room as shoppers bombarded the doors of the nearby Toy’s R’ Us at the strike of midnight. I have memories of my sister, maybe around the age of six, slipping in a few dollar bills into every red Salvation Army bucket we saw that year. And don’t even get me started on the year that all five of us (yes, brother and dad included), decided to drive up to Bloomington, MN to experience Black Friday at the Mall of America. Even as a teenager, I knew that was going to be a one-time opportunity… and it was. Now, after years of trial and error, we know the rules to follow (no boys!), the “go-to” stores, and how to manage a front-row parking spot.

If you are not a shopper or hate big crowds, trust me when I say that you should add Black Friday to your bucket list. Wake up, bundle up, and head over to Target or West Acres. Drop some spare change in the Salvation Army bucket on your way in, find a warm, comfortable seat, and just observe. You will witness peer pandemonium, but you will also witness the complete joy of families and friends spending time together. The holiday music will lift your spirits, and you may be taken-aback by the amount of politeness that surprisingly exists on this day. Or you may simply observe me, accompanied by some of the most important people in my life, as we hum Christmas tunes and make purchases for our loved ones. One thing I can promise you is that we shoppers will already be discussing our tactics for the next holiday season; and I don’t mean next month’s Christmas festivities… but next year’s Black Friday.

-Stephanie Hansen

Fargo, ND

A Black Friday Battle Plan

 By Shannon Roers Jones – Fargo

My sisters and I have developed a black Friday shopping strategy that works well  for us.  It involves walkie-talkies, a drop off car, and a coffee runner!

We usually determine the priority stores on Thanksgiving.  There are usually around 5 of us shopping so we combine our lists for each store.  We’ve determined that parking and standing in line are the two biggest time wasters.  So when we have my youngest sister drops two sisters off at each of the two stores that we’re going to hit first.  Once the doors open, one person immediately stands in line to check out while the shopping sister takes off to pick up the items on the list.  We use walkie-talkies now instead of cell phones because they’re instantaneous and don’t go dead as quickly when multiple calls are being made, plus you don’t have to bother with call waiting!  The sister standing in line reports her position in line so that the shopper can drop items off and make sure she’s finished by the time the person in line gets to the front.  We usually put everything on one credit card for simplicity and divide it up at home.  We also try not to use carts because they are a huge bottleneck and it’s much easier to move quickly without them.  When we’re finishing up at the first store we call the driver to be picked up.  The driver has our Caribou Coffee waiting and we’re off to the next store.  We usually are done shopping by about 9 and then we grab breakfast on our way home.

Kids just wanted “the experience”

My kids and my niece and nephew BEGGED me to go to Target for Black Friday. They didn’t want anything….just wanted the experience.

They were nervous about being trampled. The first photo is standing in line at the Moorhead Target and the giant blockade of carts used to corral the people around the building and the second one was “we’re IN!”

Kelly Binfet

What are you doing on Black Friday?

It’s becoming as synonymous with Thanksgiving as turkey, football, and unbuckling your belt. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving,  is the crazy, chaotic, consumer extension of the holiday and it’s getting crazier and more chaotic every year.

According to the National Retail Fund an estimated 152 million people shopped on Black Friday last year spending more than 11 billion dollars. This year could be even bigger with some stores opening their doors Thursday night before the turkey has even gotten cold. Are you shopping on Black Friday?

Where are you going? What are you looking for? What’s your strategy for getting the best bargains? We want to hear from you. If you’d rather not share your secrets, let us hear your stories. How do you spend the day? Do you and your family make Black Friday shopping a tradition? Do you wear matching clothes or plan lunch dates after your purchases have been made. To share your stories and pictures for publication in this blog email: tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com. And happy shopping!