They're looming large and tall from the confines of the raised bed garden at the edge of our yard-- three 8-foot sunflowers, reaching up towards the sky, with their yellow and brown heads finally unfurling towards the sun. We've been watching them grow for weeks-- those crazy tall flowers, with their strong stems and big leaves, climbing higher and higher into the air each day.
"They're like something from "Jack and the Beanstalk," Ava said earlier this week.
Ella nodded enthusiastically, "Yes! Totally!"
Their conversation made me smile...it made me remember the days when I was not quite grown myself and life, in general, seemed more magical and like a lot more fun. "You're absolutely right babe! They do look like something from "Jack and the Beanstalk."
We all looked up towards the top of the flowers, momentarily imagining what it might be like to climb those strong stalks all the way up to the clouds where we might find a new adventure and a hopefully friendlier giant than the one in the original story!
As beautiful as they are, the flowers almost look out of place in our little back yard. We have what some might call a "postage stamp" of a yard-- it's fenced in, and hosts a now weathered swing-set, a stamped concrete patio, and even a trampoline, but there isn't much room to spread out beyond that. We often wish it were bigger-- we wish there were more space to run, to put a pool in, or play a game of soccer or bocce if the mood were to strike. But this is where our family has grown and while we often dream of bigger places and spaces we feel content here for now.
Sunflowers though...they strike me as seeming most at home in open and rolling fields where their natural, rough, and wild beauty seem to make more sense.
Our manicured, suburban lawn yard is certainly no wide open space, but the sunflowers don't seem to mind-- they seem quite happy being squeezed in next to the tomatoes, the yellow squash, the beets, green beans and marigolds. They seem to be saying, "We are happy to grow right where we were planted, thank you very much."
The funniest thing about those sunflowers, the tallest plants in my garden, the ones every neighbor can see, is that I never intended to plant them in the garden this year.
Nope. Not one. Certainly not three. Not at all.
Friends, I've been planting vegetable gardens for 12 years...While I still have a lot to learn, I know my plants and seeds pretty well. I swear. The mistake originated when the small sprouted green plants were brought home from a community garden that I have do some volunteering with. I was told that they were green bean plants and thought they certainly looked like green beans-- so we dug three holes, stuck them in the dirt, and waited for them to grow!
Around mid-June we started realizing that those were the tallest darned green bean plants we ever did see...and then they got taller, and taller, and taller!
"Those aren't green beans," I confidently declared one June evening, "They're sunflowers girls!"
Everyday I walk out into my yard and laugh at the folly of it all, but honestly can't help thinking that God knew all along what I was bringing home in that black plastic tray full of dirt and seedlings.
God KNEW I was planting big, crazy sunflowers, three of them to be exact-- one to remind me of each of my three sweet girls. He knew, at this season of my life, I needed a big, bright, cheery, daily reminder that there is beauty in the unexpected. That I needed a reminder to take that cliched sentiment to heart-- to grow where I'm planted, even while wishing more space (physical and mental) were an option at this season of life.
God knows that for the last few years Scott and I have both felt, more often than not, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of demands, details, noise, busyness and level of responsibility necessary to run a house and raise children. He knows that at times we both feel like our capacity to do this adult, parenting thing feels smaller than we'd like it to feel-- kind of like the long wooden boxes that my vegetables are planted in-- confining and limiting.
He knows that we feel like we're squeezing more into this little space of life than we ever thought possible, and sometimes we're not so sure about it all.
Nope, God seems to be saying. I've given you everything you need, and provide in every place you feel like you're lacking. Just be content. Trust me. Keep growing where I've planted you.
Our girls, with their bright personalities, ideas, dreams, compassion and love shared with others, their ingenuity and uniqueness-- they're all sprouting up before us, right in front of our eyes. It's wild and crazy and beautiful, and even though much of it is unexpected (I mean, who really knows what they're getting themselves into when they sign up for this parenting gig?!), it all somehow seems just as is should be. We're all growing as a family, right where we were planted. We're growing upwards, with roots stretched downwards right into the soil of life.
So, as I continue to watch those sunflowers grow taller towards the sky, with giant green leaves stretched out as if they're singing praises to heaven, I find myself reminded to grow right where I'm planted and to relish in the glory and blessing of it all. That it's ok to shake my head in wonder at the wildness of it at times, but with a smile on my face I realize that sometimes the unexpected is just what God intended.