The Sign of the Rose

January: The last bud of the season.

Spring 2009.  I awoke one morning to a future that seemed frighteningly uncertain and months of prayers that seemed unanswered. Limbs achy with anxiety.  I’m sure you know the feeling . . .

That morning, as I left for work, a bush at the base of our steps met me with an explosion of color; a dozen or more petite roses in full bloom. I had not known this was a rose bush.  I had not noticed the buds forming. The bush had not bloomed the year before.  I tearfully plucked one flower and pressed it in my wallet.

At least one rose kept constant vigil until the mid-January snowstorms finally pushed it into hibernation. This past April, on a day that seemed particularly bright, with an unexpected opportunity unfolding, the bush became enflamed once more.

Sign-seeking is dangerous business (sign-seekers in the scriptures don’t end particularly well . . . ).  And aren’t signs usually created in retrospect? The rainbow on the blind date that led to marriage – a sign! The other rainbows on all those other afternoons are forgotten, with no outcomes to secure their place in our emotional narratives.

Sign is the wrong word for my roses.  They were not pointing to an outcome, not even to a bend in the road.  They provided no epiphany.  Instead, they offered beauty, with such vivacity that I couldn’t look away.  Each afternoon, well into the cold of winter, I stopped before entering the house, stooped and . . . well . . . smelled the roses.

Sign might be the wrong word, but these flowers did feel like a spiritual gift of serendipitous timing.  I don’t think my prayers made the flowers grow.  But perhaps those hours of petitions attuned me to look for manna in my wilderness.  The flowers were a natural offering that I chose to make a symbol of hope.  I chose to accept the gift.

Here’s another way of looking at it: It often seems that when I’m seeking, I find more moments of grace. Moments that might have occurred regardless, but moments I might have missed.  Perhaps prayer opens me to gifts that are already there for the taking. The unexpected email from a friend, the perfect song on the radio, and the still lizard on my windowsill: moments of grace.

And it makes me want to be that moment of grace for someone else — to write the note, send the flower, or offer the smile that might keep another soul tethered to hope just a little bit longer, at least until this storm lets up.

Oh, and when we went house-hunting a few months ago, we walked into an empty kitchen and saw single rose in a blue vase.  I like to think I would have chosen this house anyway . . . !

P.S.  Do you believe in signs?


Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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11 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    I think that if we look for evidence of God’s love for us, we will find it. And know that we are loved.

  2. Tracy M says:

    Every single time…

  3. jddaughter says:

    I really really want there to be signs. I’m in the hope stage, now. One time I was pretty convinced that every time something good was about to happen in my life…I would see a giraffe… (like, on a postcard or something)…but it was too inconsistent.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    Leave it to Deborah to have me crying on a Monday morning.

    Beautiful, my friend

  5. Two of Three says:

    Signs? I don’t know. But certainly God puts beauty in our way when we most need it.

  6. Dora says:

    Deborah, I love how you’ve articulated this idea that beauty and connectedness exists all around us, if only we are willing to notice it. Lately, I don’t know that I’ve been much in the mood for seeking. However, I am trying to keep my soul open to receive whatever good and beautiful things that are there for the noticing. A friendly overture. A kind word. The physical beauty of the earth. A strong connection while dancing. Kind and helping hands. Music. These are the things that enrich my life, when I can take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge them.

    So, no. I don’t believe in signs and portents. But I do believe that goodness, beauty and fantastic opportunities exist in all of our lives, and that all we have to do is to let them in.

  7. suzann werner says:

    The rose bud holds the promise of unfolding, just like us. Your picture of the rose bud just made me smile. Thanks for sharing this beautiful thought.

  8. Deborah says:

    That’s a lovely way to look at it, Suzann.

    Thanks for your thoughts, all. I do believe in signs, for lack of a better work, but not in my ability to interpret them . . . and I am often skeptical of the interpretations of others. So moments of “God putting beauty in our way when we need it most,” (thanks, twoofthree) feels like a better way to express those moments of grace, where something beautiful and unexpected blows us a kiss and says “hang on.”

    But I do love that John Cusack line is Serendipity, though: “Maybe the absence of signs is a sign!”

  9. Caroline says:

    I’m not a believer in signs from God. But I do think that one can find a lot of meaning in paying attention to the world around you and looking for reoccuring symbols and symbolism.

    I heard Carol Lynn Pearson speak about this. (She wrote a book on it: Consider the Butterfly, in which she describes a few incidents in her life in which a butterfly was present or was a topic of conversation, and these events all came together in a meaningful way.) She labels this phenomenon of reoccuring symbols or meaning “synchronicity” (

    This was a beautiful post, Deborah. Thank you!

  10. Deja says:

    This is lovely, Deborah. And I think a healthy skepticism of signs (which you display here) is useful. But the graceful acceptance of a clear one (which you also display here) is essential. I like the other ways to label this sort of thing–sometimes shifting the language is all it takes to make sense of the world. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Stella says:

    I don’t know about signs and coincidences and synchronicity…but when it suddenly happens in my life..then I am a believer.

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