High hopes

The heavens declare God's glory, and so do sunflowers.

A kid in a candy shop – there I stood in front of the rack of flower seeds. Any of them would look spectacular in my garden. Decisions, decisions. But really there was no contest – sunflowers were the obvious choice. Tall. Tenacious. Irresistibly cheerful. They would stand rustically elegant in front of the cedar rail fence Jack built to border the front yard.

The ground was still cold, but visions of summer grandeur filled my head. I tucked away the packet of seeds, intending to plant them once the frost abated. Now and then I’d notice it in the drawer when looking for other things. Yes, yes . . . must plant those soon. Four seasons passed. I vowed to do better this year.

Early in July I came across the package of potential again. Was it too late to sow? Were these seeds past their prime? With nothing to lose I traipsed out to the edge of the yard and dug a shallow trench close to Jack’s fence. I dropped a half dozen seeds into the dry soil, watered them and hoped for the best.

After a couple of weeks, much to my delight three little seedlings poked through. They grew rapidly, reaching a height of eight feet or more. I smiled every time I drove in or out of the laneway. Buds appeared – like baubles on a Christmas tree – so many buds! And at last the big day came – a bright yellow corolla with a rich brown face proudly crowned the tallest plant. Within days a fabulous profusion of flowers burst open. Dreams do come true.

But one afternoon a summer storm swept through and cruelly flattened my magnificent sunflower. Maybe I could prop up my fallen friend by tying it to the fence. I found some soft twine and gently hoisted the giant from the ground. Snap! The woody stem cracked and my golden beauty was a goner. I snipped off a few flowers and arranged them in a vase – a memorial to my good intentions and high hopes.

Whole nonetheless

The two survivors remained stalwart – one traditional yellow, the other brick red. Be thankful for the glass two-thirds full, I told myself. A week later the second plant went down. I sighed with self pity, Jonah-like. Then I noticed the stalk was still intact – bent and stretched beyond belief, but whole nonetheless. Without my “help” that plant managed to continue blooming, just from a different posture. Why fight gravity?

I leaned back in a chair on the deck and pondered my numerous sunflower lessons. High above a red-tailed hawk glided serenely across the Technicolor sky. The heavens declare God’s glory. So do sunflowers and all things bright and beautiful, really. This world is no longer perfect. Stained by sin my plans are bound to be frustrated. But God’s presence lingers generously. He gave me five senses to take it all in, and a thankful heart to offer the praise he rightly deserves, regardless of whether I’m standing tall or laid flat out.


  • Heidi VanderSlikke

    Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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