Cacti are not my favorite plants. I also don’t particularly like the fact that cacti is the plural of cactus. I wanted to say cactuses. But that’s neither here nor there. Though I was born in Arizona and therefore must have a smidge of desert in my blood, I find cacti more obtrusive than inviting, more awkward than beautiful. I don’t like it when they grow monstrously large and take over an entire yard. And more than once I’ve had to remove painful spines from a child’s hand. I love me some plants and I’m plenty outdoorsy, but a cactus? Not the kind of plant I would ever choose.
Yesterday on my morning walk I passed by a nondescript house with lackluster landscaping, which I have passed by probably one hundred times before. But this time, something caught the corner of my eye. There, protruding out of a bulky cactus was the most delicate white flower. I had to stop and strain my neck to peer around the backside of the formidable plant and fully take in the impressive blossom. Creamy white petals splayed open creating a deep center boasting of intricate light-yellow filaments.
This flower was the only one on a whole cluster of dull cacti. I had never seen anything like it. The protruding bloom wasn’t just an unexpected visual feast for me, it was also a beacon of delight for a handful of bees. The buzzing creatures happily hovered over anthers heavy with yellow pollen, zipping in and out of the cavernous center.
In that moment I was reminded again that beauty can, in fact, be found anywhere – even in a cactus.
As I continued on my walk, I kept thinking about the ugly cacti (ugly in my humble opinion; you’re welcome to disagree) and its one beautiful blossom. And it reminded me of the fact that so often in life, goodness sprouts up from things we would never choose.
I would never have chosen Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but this mental illness has allowed God’s comfort and compassion — and in turn my empathy for others — to bloom in the most life-giving ways.
I would never have chosen for my son to have a visual processing disorder which, several years ago, led us to an educational crossroads where we made the decision to hold him back in school. But that hard circumstance led to God’s protection and provision in so many beautiful ways.
I would never have chosen to be long-term renters instead of homeowners. But despite the fact that our name is not on the house title, we’ve made our current address home for almost a decade. We’ve experienced the wild beauty of opening these rented doors, adding chairs to our table and pillows to the floor, and sharing with others the gift God has entrusted to our care.
Gorgeous flowers that could only bloom from cacti – blessings reaped from un-favorite things we didn’t know we needed.
Think back on your own life and the circumstances you would never choose . . . can you see the beauty? Can you see the goodness that came from that job you didn’t get or that relationship that started out on a rocky foot? Can you see the blessing that sprouted from that difficult diagnosis, cross-country move, or brutal season in parenting?
We serve a God who is in the lifelong business of turning ashes into beauty, weakness into strength, and death into life!
Indeed, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 CSB).
While Scripture is irrevocably true, we can still admit that recognizing the beauty of God’s goodness, kindness, compassion, provision, or grace in our lives does not erase the proverbial cactus spines. Life is still prickly and hard and there will surely be parts we would never choose and would rather avoid.
And guess what? That’s okay.
Cacti are still not my favorite plant, but I can appreciate their potential to produce something beautiful.
May we hold open hands and open hearts to the same potential in all our ugly, uncomfortable, or unfavorite life circumstances today. Beauty may be just around the corner in the place you’d least expect.
For more encouragement on how to see the daily beauty of God’s fingerprints in the midst of life’s prickly and painful moments, follow Becky on Instagram!