SheReads: The Language of Flowers

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On a great book, deeper stories and a bouquet from the heart.

By Destiny Loeve

“The meaning of camellia? My destiny is in your hands.”

I am so very excited about the book I get to share with you this month. It was a read that had me prying open the pages at every possible spare moment and raving about how delightful it was to anyone I knew would care to hear. Enough said. Please let me introduce to you the simply exquisite book “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

The drama revolves around Victoria, a young woman who has recently been emancipated from the foster care system. She has faced rejection after heartbreaking rejection in her 18 years and is now alone, angry, wounded and defiant. It’s clear nobody will be coming close to her heart. Yet, Victoria nurtures a garden she has created in the public park where she sleeps at night. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this girl.

Meanwhile a parallel story is unfolding and the reader sees a younger Victoria, placed in a foster home with a woman who “gets” her, despite the protective thistles she wields. Thistle, we learn, means misanthropy. It is the plant Victoria most identifies with. It is in this open spacious accepting home that she becomes aware of and learns to speak the language of flowers. The girls in her group home are presented with purple dahlias: dignity. The boy who sees her unrefined beauty receives rhododendrons: beware.

And oh, the story unfolds so beautifully. In one scene, an abandoned young girl is given her first beautiful dress. In another, a vineyard is lit on fire. In another, a baby is left in a basket lined and blanketed with moss. The story centers around the themes of family, redemption, grace, preconceptions and forgiveness. The final bouquet presented by an emotional Victoria was infused with this message: reconciliation, forget me not, I feel your kindness, grace, a heart unacquainted with love, tears, tender recollections, childhood, and gratitude. It was a poignant moment.

I couldn’t write or say enough about this book and happily give it a brilliant five out of five stars. Two thumbs way up. A 10.0 on the scorecard.

And not only the book. Five out of five stars go to the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh. She seems like a woman intent on making a difference in kids’ lives. Not only has she been a foster and adoptive mom, but she has started an organization, The Camellia Network, which aims to take care of the needs of youth leaving the foster care system. The meaning of camellia? My destiny is in your hands. This woman’s heart is BIG. Care to buy a youth venturing into independence some dishes or a laptop? Visit camellianetwork.org. I love it. What a poignant example of a woman who found her heart’s passion and found a practical way to be the difference.

The Diffenbaugh family

On another note, reading The Language of Flowers, I experienced a familiar stirring inside me. It’s a feeling that resurfaces every time I am asked to let my heart hold the story of a foster child. I need to say this next part carefully, because you must know that as of yet I haven’t acted on this … however, my heart wants to embrace and welcome these children into my life.

In my work as a pediatric nurse, there have been numerous times I’ve been able to care for infants who are about to enter the foster care system. Every time it’s a heartbreaker. A foster child represents a family torn apart for varied and complex reasons. James 1:27 in the Bible equates taking care of orphans and widows with pure and genuine religion. When I take a look at the society I live in, I don’t think I’m too far off in suggesting that the children of the foster care system are our current day “orphans.” And the need is great. I’m thankful these kids were brought to my attention again, and I’m ever so thankful for the moms and families who open wide their homes and lives.

So friend, if I were to send you a virtual SheLoves bouquet of flowers today, I’d have to include a radiant assortment of:

Freesias, Cinquefoil, Larch, Myrtle, Magnolias, Pink Roses, Orchids and a sprinkling of Thyme.

I hope you’d understand the message hidden in the petals:

Lasting Friendship, Beloved Daughter, Audacity, Love, Dignity, Grace, Refined Beauty and Activity.

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Here’s a couple other book suggestions from the lovely Angela Doell:

  • Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova

I picked this out because Genova’s book Still Alice is a recent favourite. This story is about a mom whose busy, calculated life is knocked sideways by a car accident and resulting brain injury. She finds herself in an unfamiliar place as she’s suddenly fully dependant on others. I could relate to the character on a few levels and found myself easily absorbed in her world.

  • The Memory Palace, by Mira Bartok

I’m about halfway through this memoir, and it’s messing with me in a difficult-slash-good way. Bartok writes about her relationship with her brilliant, creative and schizophrenic mother. It feels like a peek into the life of someone I’d easily judge if I ran into her on the street whose story is so much deeper and richer than I’d see on the surface.

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I’m curious to know: what have you enjoyed reading lately?

~Des

xoxo

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About Destiny

Destiny Loeve treasures most her roles as wife to one daring husband & mommy to three sunshiny children. She loves to see things grow in her garden, read great books, hang out at her church, meet all kinds of people & sit in her living room with friends. When not on maternity leave, she works as a pediatric nurse, and finds as many opportunities to volunteer in the community as possible.

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