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Monday, September 21, 2015

Sunflowers, Squirrels, God and Us

We grew beautiful sunflowers at the convent this year, directly in the front of the house for everyone who walked or drove down the street to enjoy.  They really were beautiful . . . until the squirrels got to them.  We had already put a mesh fence around the vegetable garden so that the squirrels would not have a daily, all-you-can-eat buffet at our expense.  The fence was successful, but we did not see a need to fence in the sunflowers.  Hence, this photo:

Indeed, what you see in the photo is a strong sunflower stem with the flowers missing, having been eaten by the squirrels.  How do we know that the squirrels were the culprits?  Because every time we rounded the corner of the house, the stems of the sunflowers were bent over due to the weight of the animals whose faces were buried deep in the center of the flower.  Seeing us, the squirrels would scurry off to await our departure, so they could return to their task.

As a result, we decided to let the squirrels win this one.  "If they want the sunflowers, let them have them," we thought, "We'll make them squirrel-proof next year."  So, we stopped caring for the sunflowers -- no water, no weeding, no watchful eyes.  The squirrels finished their looting of the sunflower garden and we moved on, considering how next year's planting would be different.  End of story . . . or so you would think.

Instead, let these photos tell you what really happened:

When robbed of their flowers and the uppermost parts of their stems, the flowers continued to grow -- without extra water or care.  In fact, the removal of their largest flowers seems to have given the plants' smaller flowers a chance to grow faster and more abundantly.  Further, the flowers are just high enough off the ground and their branches are just delicate enough that the squirrels are unable to attack -- although it doesn't stop them from trying.  So, instead of a well-tended garden that appears ridiculously barren of flowers, we have a seemingly untended garden of abundant sunflowers.

The incident of the squirrels and the sunflowers has caused us to reflect on our ability to trust in God's providential care in our lives.  Consider their lessons:
  • God is the master gardener.  We are not God. Forgetting this causes much unnecessary stress. As much as we fussed over the flowers during the consistently hot days this summer, we did not cause the flowers to grow; we merely facilitated their growth by being good stewards.  
  • God's results exceed human expectations.  We cannot begin to fathom the mercy of God, who will not be outdone in generosity.  Although we judged the squirrel attacks as a threat to the survival of the sunflowers, they were actually an opportunity for the flowers to thrive.   
  • God never ceases caring for us.  We are human beings who have limitations that cause us to "throw in the towel," at least once in a while. God is not. While we were ready to give up on the flowers and use our mistakes as a learning experience for next year's growing season, God was not finished -- and the results were beautiful!
Today, most sunflowers in our region are giving way to the flowers of autumn.  While we look forward to the beauty of autumnal hues, we cannot forget the lessons that the sunflowers -- and, yes, even the squirrels -- of 2015 taught us.  As long as we remain open to these lessons, the results will be beautiful!

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