Let My People Grow

Many forms of captivity may manifest in our lives beckoning our very own exodus. One such form of captivity I personally experienced was domestic and familial violence, that is violence or other forms of abuse committed towards me by a spouse as well as a close family member. Sometimes people who you thought would protect and provide for you choose to oppress you much to your shock and horror. Nevertheless, the story of Joseph’s family oppressing him (in the Bible) reminds me that God can use all circumstances for your good and the benefit of others as well. Later on, in Scripture, God hears the cries of the oppressed descendants of Joseph and his family and sends Moses to let God’s people go. Hence, the exodus story. After cultivating my exodus from such “pestilence”, God used gardening to help heal my heart and mind. With a heart full of gratitude towards God for graciously hearing my desperate prayers, I want to use my life to help cultivate growth in others who may still be awaiting an exodus of their own.

Due to these traumatic experiences and wanting to help others still in captivity, I became a certified domestic violence advocate that not only held faith-based support groups in my home for victims of domestic violence, but I also went on to found a non-profit that housed pregnant survivors of domestic violence and their children. Although I no longer house hurting women, I find myself still wanting to encourage those who are suffering. Perhaps my garden-themed writings throughout this site as well as the Ever-Blooming Roses magazines will plant seeds of hope and healing in those still in captivity.

Additionally, if you are a loved one of a person currently in a toxic and abusive relationship, it is critical you do the following to best help your loved one:

  1. Educate yourself on domestic violence. There are many variables involved and no easy solutions. Refrain from saying things like, “Why don’t you just leave him/her?” or exuding any form of victim-blaming. To learn more, click here http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/educated/avoiding-victim-blaming/
  2. Ears open. Understand victims of domestic violence are often gaslighted and bombarded with lies and negative comments from their abusers as well as ignorant, insensitive people. How you respond to the victim is a matter of life and death. The best thing you can do for your loved one is simply listen.
  3. Explore and Empower. You cannot fix their situation and you do not know what is best for the victim. They, however, know their circumstance and abuser best. It is important you help them explore all options and think through potential outcomes for better or worse and then empower them to make the best and safest series of decisions for themselves and their specific circumstances. Refrain from making decisions for them or forcing them to take action.
  4. Encourage the victim. Please be patient and encouraging as you listen to the many exhausting emotions, patterns, and variables the victim will experience. Be aware a victim of domestic violence often attempts to leave or indeed ends the relationship only to return on average 7 to 9 times before finally terminating the relationship. It is important you do not say anything negative about the abuser to the victim for she/he will not return to you for advice or help once she/he reconciles with their abuser. Leaving is a process – not an event. Also, be aware when a victim of domestic violence attempts to terminate the relationship, that is when the victim’s life, as well as her children or pets, are most in lethal jeopardy. She cannot “just leave”. By encouraging her to do so, it could be signing her death warrant – particularly if weapons are in the home.
  5. Evolve. Eventually, by planting seeds of love and hope in your loved ones as you implement these methods listed above, in time, the victims will hopefully free themselves from such pestilence or suffocating weeds when they believe it is safe to do so and evolve into overcoming, “ever-blooming roses” despite life’s prickly pain.

Also, it should be noted any gender can be abusive, and false or exaggerated accusations can be made to suit the agenda of another. The following graphics are not my own but are helpful as one learns to discern abusive dynamics.

“My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection.” Psalm 71:7

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Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: Thistles, Thorns, and Now Thrips

‘Oregold’, a glorious hybrid-tea shines in shades of yellow.

Thistles, Thorns, and Now Thrips?

Nearly every morning I inspect my rose babies looking for damaging insects such as aphids, sawfly larvae, Japanese beetles, and thrips. Thrips, though terribly difficult to see, as are most of these critters, leave obvious evidence on fragrant or light-colored rose petals. By their very nature, thrips thrive by sucking the life out of the rose bud and its petals if they are even able to bloom. This summer I added the wonderfully fragrant, lavender colored Memorial Day rose to my garden. Just a few feet away I also planted Oregold, another hybrid tea rose, which produces a lovely bloom in vibrant yellow. Unfortunately, Memorial Day suffered from thrips. In a short amount of time, my Oregold rose also succumbed to them. I hadn’t known such microscopic creatures even existed until I noticed my Memorial Day rose petals had a bizarre brown edging. I hoped this delightful smelling rose bush was suffering from heat exhaustion. But even after thoroughly watering the bush in addition to the temperatures subsiding, shades of brown still smothered her every bud and bloom. Shortly thereafter, my Oregold, who once provided large layers of glorious yellow petals, now was hampered by dilapidated edges of brown or petals that appear dry and shriveled as well as buds that won’t open, all of which are common side effects of thrips.

Consequently, I went to the trusty internet to determine what is plaguing my newly adopted roses. After doing a little research, I took a closer look at my roses and could identify them. Yikes, it’s thrips! To determine just how bad the rose bushes were infested, I took a white piece of paper and tapped the blooms over the paper. Sure enough the once nearly invisible thrips were now clearly visible though ever so tiny! To ward them off, I hosed them down with water and then gave them regular dosing of neem oil. I prefer to use more organic measures than resorting to systematic insecticide. The infestation of thrips proves yet another example of why beneficial bugs like ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings are desperately needed in a garden as they love to feast on such devastating creatures.

“I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to the nations. To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison..” Isaiah 42:6-7

As I went about decontaminating my roses, I pondered on the simple fact that a light colored and or fragrant rose attracts such insects. Light, in general, attracts bugs. How interesting that sometimes though as we may live out a lifestyle of worship as the light of the world and emit a sweet aroma as daily living sacrifices, or simply as good, empathetic people, we too can attract pestilence in our lives. It would seem the more you blossom as a fragrant, light colored rose in God’s garden, those who choose to reject God, His ways, and do evil, find themselves harboring contempt towards you. Perhaps they don’t understand or more specifically, don’t want to understand. In fact, to them, your decision to strive to obey God’s teachings in Torah, which is defined as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23) and to live a lifestyle that reflects His light, may be more like a stench in their nostrils than an inviting fragrance.

​In particular, have you ever overcome something horrific while giving God all the glory for helping you be victorious? Some would have preferred to see you suffer or succumb to the thrip infestation as it sucked all joy from your petals of praise. Instead, you were willing to be anointed with God’s neem oil, if you will, or you chose to bask in His light rather than the darkness seemingly attacking you. You chose to thrive despite the thrips. You overcame your enemy and walked out of that battle with the enemy’s goods because you, through God’s grace, turned the experience into something beautiful as it molded your character. By doing so, you are emitting the sweet fragrance God enjoys as you triumphantly obey Him through thistles, thorns, and even thrips!

‘Memorial Day’, a highly fragrant hybrid-tea.

Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: An Aphid Attack

Aphids attack a rose (photo courtesy of GardenTech)

An Aphid Attack

​Spring, in all its glory, has a marvelous way of resurrecting my spirit. A spirit that seemingly had lost all hope in the blustery cold winter months. The hints of life burgeoning in my garden stirs renewed hope and energy within my aching bones. How exciting to see new canes sprawling out as if stretching from an oppressing winter! The new red leaves bursting in color declare, “I’m alive just waiting to bestow glorious blooms!”

​Irritatingly deceptive are the tiny green aphids that blend in perfectly as they cover an unsuspecting rose bud and other areas of the plant. Technically, aphids may appear in your garden as an assortment of colors such as black, brown, red, or even white. Aphids attack worldwide and their different species are in the thousands! Aphids arrive in the Spring, but can reemerge anytime during rose season seeking out the sap within your rose plant. They tend to cover the rose bud or hide under the plant’s foliage. Aphids can even transmit disease to your other roses. Thus far, every Spring when I look closely at my buds anxious for them to bloom, I am horrified to see a cluster of life sucking creatures curling the leaves around her, smothering her, and doing their best to prevent her from blooming!

​Thankfully, there are a few ways to resolve an aphid attack. One such option is to remove them by picking them off and squishing them although this method is quite tedious considering how many aphids typically plague a rose bush at any given time. Another much faster option would be to take a hose with a nozzle and blast off the aphids. This method won’t damage your roses and provides a quick, but temporary solution. Perhaps the best option is to develop an inviting host environment as previously discussed. Various herbs like dill, parsley, and mustard and flowers such as butterfly weed, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace and golden rod will attract ladybugs. Ladybugs thoroughly enjoy a tasty aphid and can devour the colony of pests in no time. You could also purchase ladybugs through an online source and release them into your garden. Follow the directions if you choose this option and understand most of the ladybugs will fly off but some will stay and enjoy the aphid buffet. Considering how aphids will seek out to destroy your burgeoning buds every Spring and into the Summer months, wisdom says to start establishing a welcoming host environment for the good bugs to permanently move in.

‘Peace’, a hybrid-tea

“And now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me; moreover, I have seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.” Exodus 3:9

An aphid attack on glorious roses reminds me of the affliction of the people of Israel, also known as the ancient Israelites and today known as the Jewish people.  It seems quite unfair to notice and delight in a flourishing bud, such as God’s chosen people, only to have them smothered by pest likened to antisemitism!

Nevertheless, the Hebrew Bible repeatedly both warns and encourages the Israelites, whether natural born or grafted-in such as Caleb (Numbers 13:6, 14:24, Joshua 14:13-14/Genesis 15:19) and Ruth (Ruth 1:2,8-18), both grafted-in Jews, for example, to not fret and to even expect affliction, but in the end, God will literally save the Jewish people, collective Israel scattered throughout the world raising them to be victorious (see Isaiah 30, 41-42, 49, 53-56, 60; Ezekiel 34-37; Joel 3; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 8-12 as a few examples).

‘Diamond Eyes’, a miniature rose

 “Even though you planned evil against me, Elohim (God) planned good to come out of it.” Genesis 50:20

​Furthermore, suppose the oppressed rose bud was crying out to you, the master gardener, to rescue her from such bondage. She was unable to free herself of the smothering aphids but her gardener could. What if we learned to cry out to God, our Master Gardener, rather than try to fight off the aphids ourselves or worse, choose helplessness and hopelessness by giving in to slavery, depression, or fear. Surely, He hears our cries (see Exodus 2:23 and 3:9). Sometimes though, for the greater good and for the bigger picture that we cannot comprehend, it may feel like God, our Abba Father, has abandoned us so we cry out like the Israelites did, which David penned about them stating, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (see Psalm 22:1). But ultimately, they were rescued from the oppression of Egypt. We see from the Psalm in verse 5, “To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” David also encourages Israel and future readers, to understand the blessings coming to those who trust in the LORD when he scribes, “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” David further encourages the often oppressed and afflicted Israel while prophesizing about future world stating,

“You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all the seed of Jacob, honor Him, and fear Him, all the seed of Israel. For He has neither despised nor abhorred the cry of the poor, neither has He hidden His countenance from him; and when he cried out to Him, He hearkened. The humble shall eat and be sated; they shall praise the Lord, those who seek him; your hearts shall live forever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and return to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall prostrate themselves before You. For the kingship is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations..” Psalm 22:24-29

The point, sweet sister, is even though Israel or the Jewish people collectively and possibly those who align with them, may be heavily afflicted throughout the centuries, ultimately, God is grooming and preparing a world to come full of victorious overcomers…a world full of “ever-blooming roses”! Whether you need to tediously hand pick those aphids right off of you, blast them off in one clean swoop, develop an environment full of ministering angels, or better yet, simply cry out to your Master Gardener, then just do it! I’m here to remind you, beloved daughter of God: He hears you. In His strength and His time, you can overcome the attacks of pestilence! ​

“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

‘Miss All-American Beauty’, a hybrid tea