I’ve always loved sunflowers; they are so bright and cheery. When was the last time you saw a sunflower? Outside my library is an outdoor nature area containing a crop of sunflowers. Today when I went to observe them, there were several plants in various stages of their life cycle. As we sat and studied these plants, my mind drifted to the different seasons of motherhood. I hope you will join me as we look at these sunflowers, as I believe there is something we can learn from each stage.
The first sunflower was beautiful, stunning. It got the most oohs and aahs from my children. Standing up tall and straight, its vibrant yellow petals pointing to the sun. Yellow has always been one of my favorite colors because it exudes such joy and warmth. This flower was full of life and vitality. Beautiful colors contrasted against the crisp, blue sky. This flower reminded me of the seasons of motherhood that we go through that are full and robust. We are busy and satisfied. We see joy in the moments. We overflow with happiness. We feel vibrant and alive. Those are blessed times indeed. Of course during this time there is a potential pitfall, which of course is pride. We can easily look on others who may not be experiencing the same season as us with judgement or criticism. We can easily want to draw attention to ourselves: our success, our ministries, our fruit and away from the sustainer of our every breath.
I know: I’ve been that flower!
The second flower made me so sad to look at. Unlike the bright cheery yellow of the first sunflower, this flower’s petals were a crusty gold/green all curled up around the head. Instead of standing up tall, this flower was so weighed down it seemed as though it’s stem could snap off at any moment. One word came to mind as I looked at this flower- “Weary”. As moms we go through moments/days/seasons of weariness where the weight of having to care for the lives of our little seeds becomes too much to bear. The pressures of worry and fear, the real losses of children and family, financial difficulties, strained marriages, prodigal children, illness, and more can weigh us down so much we wonder if we will ever be able to hold our head up again. But just as the sunflower needs to go through this phase of its life cycle, so we must go through seasons of weariness.
Moms, we need each other. We need to encourage and build up one another! We need to be sensitive to the “weariness” in each other. We may not always be able to see the hurt in each other (man, we are good at putting on happy fronts, aren’t we?). But God can reveal the needs of others to us- if we are open to see them. If you aren’t in a season of weariness right now, reach out to help a mom who is. Bring her a meal, take her to coffee, offer to watch her kids for the afternoon, pray with her, send her an encouraging note or email.
And if you are currently that weary mom, weighed down like this sunflower, know you are NOT alone. You can read more about weariness here and here. Pray that God will show you what he wants you to learn during this season. God loves you, and He will sustain you.
I know: I’ve been this flower.
The last flower was a dark grayish brown with wrinkled up leaves and a bent stem. It’s head had lost most of its seeds that now laid strewn across the garden bed. My kids eagerly picked up one of the seeds to take home. This flower reminded me of this verse in John 12
24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
As moms, we are daily called to die to ourselves. Dying isn’t pretty. We don’t like to talk about it. Nobody would pick up the last sunflower and put it in a vase. But there is something quietly and significantly beautiful about this plant, dying so that it’s seeds (bursting with life) may go forth. I sometimes envision God calling me to die to myself in some BIG calling like going on the mission field or starting a new ministry. But God calls me to carry my cross DAILY. Right now. Today. In my own home. In the mundane tasks of everyday life. In cleaning up messes, kissing boo-boos, teaching lessons, and doing a LOT of laundry. I’m called to die to myself and that’s HARD. Well…because honestly, I’m REALLY selfish and stubborn. I don’t want to continually do the same task in joy rather than complaining. I don’t want to respond with gentleness when I’m filled with frustration. I don’t want to take the time to discipline in love and seize the teachable moment when I’m annoyed that MY day has been interrupted. In being reminded to die to myself, I come to the end of ME and fall before the throne of Christ.
And that is why I want to be this last sunflower.
It is your daily cross that makes you weep more than any other thing; that sends you to frequent prayer; that leads you to ransack the promises; that makes you cry out, like Jesus, “Father why is this?”;
that causes you to put both arms around the neck of your Savior in yearning love; that makes you sick of earth and self; that gives you wistful longings for heaven.
Oh, precious old homely, daily cross, what deep, tender, far-reaching effects thou hast wrought through all these prayer-paved years- G.D Watson
And moms, I would just like to point out that dying to self and carrying our cross, does not mean you neglect yourself in the care of your family. In fact, the health of the seeds depends on the health of the plant. Sink your roots deep into Jesus. Cultivate flourishing soil by striving for health in relationships and health in yourself! Fertilize your mind. Grow in your interests and soak in beautiful things. As it says in John 15,
2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Abide, mom. Take care of your plant, carry your cross, and trust God with the harvest!
Galatians 6:9- Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up