"Would you just look at that!" I fumed. On the ground in front of me lay, what had been a perfect sunflower. Now the stem stood tall but the flower had snapped off and lay wilted on the ground. "God, I was enjoying that." I complained.
It was true. Yesterday, I took my youngest grandson out to look at the pretty sunflower. As we stood admiring the perfect yet simplistic beauty of the golden flower, three hummingbirds darted above the sunflower and to the surrounding wildflowers. It was breath taking!
While enjoying the scene, I thought to myself "This is just like you God. I planted the row of sunflowers to block out our cranky neighbor but instead this one sunflower is so beautiful that I am compelled to look toward his house!"
The neighbor that I am referring to took an immediate dislike to my family. I guess the sight of a moving van and other vehicles filled to the brim with youngsters ranging in age from 1 to 10 years plus our two young at heart movers, our son and son in law, to him spelled trouble. Moving day, admittedly, held plenty of frolicking in the front yard, tossing the football and other heinous crimes of fun.
Our neighbor is an older man who lives alone. His yard looks like a model home for house beautiful. Every day, he can be found grooming his perfect yard. Understandably, he doesn't want our lawn with its pesky clover and dandelions tainting his treated lawn.
My husband quickly determined that the best approach was to prove that we would maintain our lawn. My husband, Mark, enjoys lawn work and he was determined to dispel any fears to the contrary. For awhile, we had a lawn competition in progress. My husband and the neighbor giving each other thumbs up signs as they worked side by side grooming lawns that in truth needed little grooming. The more the neighbor grumbled about kids and bikes. The more my husband pruned and clipped.
In addition to this goodwill yard work, we spoke to the children. We told them that under no circumstances were they to step into the neighbors' yard. If the neighbor said anything mean to them they should tell us but they were to treat him with respect no matter what he said or did. He did speak mean to them, occasionally. Whenever this happened, my husband would remind him, sternly, that he was not to speak to the children directly. "If you have a legitimate complaint, bring it to my attention and I will deal with the problem."
On one occasion, while my husband and I were away, my daughter took the brunt of our neighbors' stormy temperament. No matter, our attempts at peace,we still are bombarded with complaints and worse.
After two years, I decided, I'm going to plant a row of sunflowers along the backyard fence and maybe, something decorative in front to block our view and his. I should've known God wouldn't honor a sunflower fence or any other type of fence. In fact the same week that I planted the row of sunflowers, our dog dug them up, except for one, which grew tall and beautiful! Surrounding the one sunflower a variety of wild flowers sprang up and framed it nicely! Until this. Now,it is a nicely framed sunflower stalk!
Standing before my headless sunflower, I am reminded of another person who mourned the loss of a plant more than the loss of a soul or in his case many souls.
Jonah 4:5-7 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.
Jonah 4:10-11 But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?
Lord, thank you for the sunflower exam. Help me to be trained by this test and to pass more than I fail in the future. Amen
Darlene is a writer who travels with her husband, Mark across rural United States as he builds power plants.