Up on the patio table,
Away from curious and hungry bunnies,
And climb-climb-climbing toward heaven,
Until it’s tall enough to open up
Into full, golden bloom.
Little Man’s planted promise.
A takeaway from a tough school year.
A living stalk trying to get up to God—
—To open for Him,
Reflecting part of His amazing, creative glory.
That sunflower climbs for all of us:
For Little Man,
For our family,
For my father,
For the book,
For hopes and dreams.
Bonnie Lyn Smith, 2014
My eight year old, Little Man, came home with a sunflower seed on the last day of school last year. I have as much luck growing things as I do dusting. (Let me know if you see my furniture because it’s been a while since I have.) I’ve never really been able to keep an indoor plant alive for very long. The previous owners of our home had beautiful landscaping done. I felt so conflicted every time I pulled into my driveway because I felt like the neighbors might actually expect me to keep up with that standard, when my intention was just to pull a weed out now and again.
And every time we have tried to plant sunflower seeds—rows of them—animals have come along and dug them up. So, it was almost a burden to have this seed come home. I knew it was like already breaking a hope of Little Man’s. It felt like a letdown already in motion. Really, teachers should have to ask if it’s okay if things like seeds come home, just like they ask about frogs and goldfish. My answer on the permission slip would have been a resounding: “No, thank you!”
That said, the seed did come home, and with it, an enthusiastic Little Man. Considering that joy had rarely visited his sweet face in the months leading up to this and that he was slowly emerging from a diagnosed depression,* I decided to get a pot and some soil and half-heartedly toss the seed in there. After all, growing and tending something could be therapeutic for Little Man.
Oh, God, please don’t let this thing be a dud. Please don’t let me be a dud, God. Little Man needs this to grow.
At first, three feet into it, I really was convinced I was naively growing a weed. It was five weeks in, and that green stalk produced nothing but leaves. And since I’m not known for distinguishing weeds from real plants, I thought maybe the joke was on me, that somehow a determined squirrel had found its way onto the table and that some old weed seed ended up in my plant instead. We saw the “stalk” climb and climb with absolutely no bloom. Four feet. Five feet. Really, how patient can one be? And I had no idea this was the six feet variety. This isn’t Kansas, after all!
But watching this sunflower all summer has been a gift only God can give. It means so many things to us, and we have stewarded its life with tender care, eagerly awaiting its announcement that it is time, time for a tiny sun-bloom to wow us with hope, growth, and the incredible and unending love of a Father Who let a little boy grow something beautiful out of a year of many struggles and a few triumphs.
It was also a summer of great change in some ways. My father battled his fifth tumor and lost his bladder. It was a time when my first book, Not Just on Sundays, was inching ever closer to publication, and so was the stress. And it was a season of watching Little Man tentatively approach the world again and occasionally crack a smile.
The sunflower meant so much to all of us that, unbeknownst to each other, my husband and I each took pictures of it, which I just now found on my camera.
Fast-forward to Day 1 of the new school year, and this was my journal entry:
Little Man’s sunflower is starting to bloom today, and I find that so ironic, because he planted it on his way out of a difficult first grade year, and on this day, his first day of second grade, after growing tall all summer, protected on our patio table from gnawing critters, it is about to burst forth.
I had one enter high school for the first time today, one new to middle school, and a Little Man not sure if this whole school thing was going to go well this year.
And I’ve battled my own anxiety and self-worth because there are always voices trying to tell us we’re not at all worthy. They are voices on rewind-and-repeat cycles. And I just have to remember to push “off.”
Because God loved me, my kids, and Little Man so much to send His Son Jesus, but also—to open that flower up when the time was right.
And it’s right now, Jesus, thank You.
I went out with the dogs, and I saw that bloom readying itself to announce created life. I can’t wait to show Little Man! This year will be different, Little Man.
As surely as God put the rainbow in the sky, He grew this sunflower:
For you, for me, for love, and for fresh hope to wearied hearts.
Where does your heart need some hope today? His “word sustains the weary.” We can start by talking to Him, and then it slowly becomes a process of learning how to listen and to open our eyes, allowing Him to show us His goodness, love, and encouragement each day. It is often deeply personal—the way He reaches us—because He is a deeply personal God.
Isaiah 50:4, Isaiah the Prophet speaking
The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
*Yes, eight year olds can experience depression. For more on this story, kindly refer to the Anxiety/OCD/Depression section of this blog.
**This post been shared at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Christian Mommy Blogger, Grace & Truth, Women With Intention Wednesdays, RaRa Link-Up, So Much at Home, and Coffee and Conversation.
More anecdotal stories about faith, family, and relationships can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).