Lessons from a Sunflower

A few months back Autumn and I casually planted a handful of sunflower seeds from a "do-it-yourself" gardening kit for kids. We poured the 3 seeds into a small child's cup and filled it with water to sit on our kitchen windowsill. It was all I could do to keep my daughter from eating the seeds before they were planted as she still has an immense desire to place any and all things in her mouth (hello oral-fixation!) at the age of almost 3. Autumn was quite excited since she has helped me tend our garden of flowers on our front patio (she loves to water) and both Grammie and MorMor have influenced and encouraged this past-time. We waited patiently, tender greens sprang up and then I helped Autumn transfer the fragile greens and earth to a larger pot for the room the flower would need. Several weeks went by as we watched the green stock shoot up sturdy and strong, unaffected by the elements of wind and sun on our back patio and before we knew it, the face of the flower opened up, coming to life full-force; vibrant and beautiful as if to say, "Hello world, here I am!" Beauty and wonder and the miracle of life hit both of us. I was drawing parallels to the garden of my soul, amazed at how something grows from a tiny seed; Autumn was making new meaning in that fresh mind of hers, looking at the face of a sunflower and saying, "wow!"

Only one seed out of three grew to maturity, producing the flower for us to enjoy. One of the seeds never sprang up and the other (as seen in the pictures) shot up hearty and green but then halfway through stopped growing...interesting. I think somewhere in there, its nutrients were "choked out" by the heartier of the two and truly, there wasn't enough room for both to thrive. I can't help but think of the parable in the Bible of the sower and the seeds. Some seeds fell on shallow soil and never sprang up; some fell onto fertile soil and sprang up but the weeds grew up and choked the seeds; yet others grew up in rich soil and multiplied producing a high-yielding crop. In one of the books I'm reading on parenting, the author talks about the number of spiritual principles we are able to teach our children through planting a garden. Sowing and reaping, simplicity, living and dying. Tangible, living and breathing organisms that parallel our Christian walk.

And staring at OUR sunflower, the one we grew from a tiny seed, I knew why. The sunflower bloomed brilliantly for about 2 weeks and then it began to fade. I wanted to capture its essence and beauty before it fell (and to remember all our hard work !) so that we remember. I'm still searching for meaning from the life of the sunflower we grew, but I do know this: my life is like this flower. Arrayed in splendor, my needs provided for, here today and gone tomorrow (Luke 12:27-28). Springing up into life, reigning triumphantly, growing old and dying. (Ecclesiastes 3:2) The sunflower eventually shriveled; old and gray, and Autumn helped me pick up the pot and throw it in the trash. It isn't just my life that resembles the sunflower but seasons of life as well. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to search and a time to give up. All appointed seasons by a Father who loves us. I am in a season where I want to remember. I want to remember, as I stare at the photograph of Autumn's sunflower, the seasons of my life when I have laughed and danced and began anew. And I also want to remember the times when God has carried me because my legs were too tired to walk, the tears that seem to fill up a bottle, and the pain that at the time appears unbearable. The pattern of death and rebirth is the central metaphor of the Christian life. Beauty for ashes. Like a vase being molded in the hands of a potter; smashed and then re-fashioned, over and over. So when life is hard and I feel like that small piece of mounded clay waiting to be fashioned again, I will remember the sunflower in all its glory, both vibrant and fading, and be thankful for the lessons a garden can teach us.