The Rabbit and the Sunflower: A Tale of Growth

My smallest sunflower- it survived the rabbit!

This week I started culling my garden, pulling out the stalks that have fallen over because of the heavy sunflower heads. The marigolds will be taken out next and the ground left until next spring. Even as I start preparing the garden for colder weather, though, I have to stop and smile at the last sunflower to bloom.

This last and smallest sunflower is special to me. I’ve watched it carefully all summer, rooting for it to grow. When it was a new seedling a rabbit viewed it as his own personal salad and snipped the top right off. I left the bare stalk because I was curious to see if it would live. Since I’m new at gardening everything is experimental anyway.

The little stalk did live, short and stunted but alive, nonetheless. Even more impressive, new shoots grew out of the old barren one. Small buds formed and now, months later, a lone sunflower bloomed at last.

This year my sunflowers survived not just hungry rodents, but also an overeager nephew who enthusiastically helped me water, heavy storms, rocky soil, and my inexperience. There was even this weird mushroom collection that cropped up. The other day I stood at the window and watched the sunflowers wave wildly in the wind and get beaten down in the rain. I didn’t think they would pop up again.

They may look pretty, but they are TOUGH, however- time after time they came back, growing taller and stronger. By the end of the summer the sunflowers were towering above me.

 In spite of hardships they survived, they grew, thrived, and became beautiful.

For me, my garden is a bright spot of joy and beauty. I never get tired of looking at it. My niece was scrolling through photos on my phone the other day and complaining about how many sunflower pictures there were. I just laughed and told her they were easier to photograph than nieces and nephews.

Growth through Challenges

All summer, all through this crazy period of quarantine, social distancing, and uncertainty, that little sunflower has been a symbol of hope and perseverance to me. The rabbit ate the top, but the plant simply rerouted itself and kept on growing.

Personal growth is so much harder to write about than sunflowers, but I feel like the principle is the same. We’re not going to be eaten by rabbits (gosh, I really hope not), but we are going to face tough times. We will have our lives rerouted. Possibilities may be snipped off midway through.

Unfortunately, we don’t grow when our lives are easy. Growth is usually accomplished through pain and struggles. It comes from being snipped and rerouted and beaten down through life’s storms.

Most of us like easy, don’t we? There are those that thrive on challenge. I admire them and wish I was more like them. But honestly, that’s not me. I can’t even give up sugar.

Sometimes we can’t avoid the hard things, though. For me personally, I know that singleness has made a huge impact on who I am as a woman. It is definitely a “hard thing” that forces me to face challenges all the time.

Being single isn’t easy. We, as single women, have to…

Learn how to do our own repairs

Sit at the awkward singles table at wedding receptions because they don’t know where else to seat us

Come home to an empty house night after night

Deal with all the ignorant comments people send our way

Take sole responsibility for all financial burdens and choices

Remove gross, crawly critters from the house

Face life on our own

And so much more. All of that can bring us down. It can leave us feeling just as battered and beaten down as sunflowers caught in a summer storm.

But when it does, remember the smallest sunflower. The one that bloomed despite adversity.

We grow when life is hard.

The single life can be tough, but it’s also made me stronger. I’ve had to deal with a lot on my own. I would be a completely different woman if I was married.

If life feels like a fight right now, take a deep breath, step back, and look for all the ways God is working during this time.  Be strong in the storms.

Grow. And may your life shine just as beautifully as a sunflower.

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of a summer garden. It can teach us so much. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Sunshine and Sunflowers: Three Lessons from My First Attempt at Gardening

I got out of my car and went into the backyard to do my daily check on my new sunflowers. Even though I’d just spent six hours at day camp, I immediately dropped my things on the grass and started pulling up weeds. The stress of the day melted away as I reveled in the outdoor work.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter that our camp room had flooded that morning, forcing our entire group to carry wet belongings up four flights of stairs to the sweltering attic. It didn’t matter that it was over ninety degrees and we hadn’t had air conditioning. It didn’t matter that I was short-staffed that week. All the craziness faded into the blissful pleasure of a bright, sunny summer afternoon. ..

The tangy smell of the marigolds I’d planted around the edges of the flower bed.

The soothing warmth of the sun on my back.

The peace of my surroundings after the hyper chatter of a sold-out day camp.

Even the giant, squishy earthworm that sent me scrambling for a blanket to sit on.  Ok, maybe not that, but I wanted you to get the whole picture.

This little garden had become my new happy place.

Except for forced weeding at the behest of my mother, I’d never participated in any type of gardening. But I inadvertently ended up with three sad little sunflower plants and decided that this could be my new summer adventure. A tame adventure to be sure, but I’m always open to trying new things.

Those sad little sunflower plants didn’t last long, but I had provided them with friends in the shape of GIANT sunflower seeds (go big, right?). To everyone’s surprise, the seedlings did great! They spent the next four months grooooowing, until they towered over our heads. I loved my GIANT sunflowers.

I’ve always admired sunflowers. They’re big, bright, and unfailingly cheerful.  I also feel like we can learn a lot from them. Gardening provides you with time to think and ponder, and I spent a great deal of time dwelling on the lessons I, as a single Christian woman, could learn from sunflowers.

  1. Follow the Son

Young sunflowers trace the path of the sun with their faces. I looked it up and learned that this is called heliotropism (do you feel smarter now?). It actually has to do with how the stem develops. What a great visual for Christians!

As single women, we don’t have to look anxiously around us and play the comparison game. We don’t have to fret or worry about the unique challenges of our single lives. Instead, we can keep our eyes fixed firmly upward on Jesus Christ- the only Son truly worth looking at. God promises to meet our needs and not withhold any good thing from us. And we can confidently follow Him in our daily lives

2. Anticipate the Son

Not only should we keep our eyes on Jesus and the truth of His word, sunflowers can also teach us to anticipate Him. I read that sunflowers flip around to face east again at night. Even though it’s dark, they are anticipating the dawn. They can’t see or feel it, but they know the sun is going to come again and they stand ready for it. 

I love that.

To anticipate means to “prepare to take action because of your expectations.” It’s easy to feel discouraged about life situations we may not want, but we don’t have to get burdened down by them. Instead, we can prepare ourselves by diving into the truth of God’s Word.  We can ready ourselves to take action because we expect, we know, that God is working in our lives and we need to be ready to serve Him. Our singleness is just as great a gift as marriage is, and we can stand in expectation, knowing that He will accomplish great things through us.

3. Point others to the Son

Finally, sunflowers can teach us of the importance of pointing people to Christ. As I look at my sunflowers, stretching up toward the sky, I can’t help but think of heaven. It’s almost like the flowers are shouting and saying, “Look, look at what’s up there!”

I want my life to do the same thing. My deep wish is that my words and actions will cause others to look toward heaven and think about the wonders that wait there and the Son of God that loves them more than anything. I pray that my life would shine just as brightly, and bring others just as much joy, as the giant flowers that grew in my experimental garden last summer.

My sunflowers grew to be over nine feet tall!

This week, I thank God for the blessing of sunflowers and the lessons we can learn from them. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!