Sunflowers in the carrots

Pastoral Messages | July 18, 2019

Back in February, when it was 150 degrees colder than it is today in Iowa, I sat down with a seed catalog and drew a little map, plotting out where I’d plant our vegetables and flowers. And on that one sunny day in May, the kids and I went outside to bring those mapped dreams to reality. We dug little holes in perfect distance from one another, just as I planned. I poured seeds into my kid’s small hands as they tucked them in to rest for a while. The carrots were in neat little rows and the broccoli had lots of rooms to grow. And then, we waited and we watched as little sprouts began to grow.

Well, now that it’s July, thanks to heavy rains and my children’s creativity, our garden looks nothing like my little map. Zinnias mixed in with tomatoes, kale and basil together. And there are these two sunflowers almost as tall as me right in the middle of the carrots. It’s a beautiful hodgepodge of plants, all growing happily together in our garden bed.

It’s neither efficient nor conventional, but I love this chaotic, flourishing garden of ours. It makes me think of the parable Jesus tells where the Holy Gardener scatters seeds recklessly, wanting only to plant and for things to grow abundantly. God’s word of love is planted in unexpected places, taking root to bring beauty and goodness to the world.

If we look at our lives, we’d see that most of our growth happens when our garden is neither perfect nor homogeneous. Our maturing happens, not when everything is lined up right in a row as we planned, or when we are surrounded by others that are just like us. Instead, the goodness and the richness of life turns up when we bump up against people who are different than we are and who introduce us to seeing the world in new ways. Our sense of ourselves develops when we are nurtured and challenged by others who help us see from new perspectives.

We are at our best as congregations and as a country when we cultivate communities of diversity. Our differences only help us to flourish. We are stronger, more creative, and powerful in our witness to love when we are committed to tending to the soil of compassion, open-mindedness, and welcome.

So next time you get a chance, plant yourself with an open heart in a chair (or pew) next to someone new. Perhaps they think, or look, or speak differently than you do, but as you hear their story, they might just help you to discover the goodness of God in new ways, like a sunflower growing in the middle of a vegetable garden.

-Sara Olson-Smith

8 Comments on “Sunflowers in the carrots”

  • DIXIE Kutzbach

    July 20, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    I love this, Sarah. So many times when we are teaching children how to do something, we tend to keep reaching in to assist so it gets done “just right”. But often times, giving them a little room to do it their way, and not “fixing” it for them, we end up having some very special experiences that we will treasure.

  • Georgia Dugan

    July 19, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Not by design, we have a really tall yellow day lily in the middle of the short yellow day lilies. We love it. Now it will also we our reminder “we are stronger, more creative, and powerful in our witness to love when we are committed to tending the soil of compassion, open mindedness, and welcome.” <3

  • Anke Maass

    July 18, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    Great analogy. I did a similar thing backwards. Waiting for wild flowers to bloom and added some perennials. They are flourishing together! We flourish when we get fresh outlooks and new persons stories.

  • Sheila Mesick

    July 18, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    Praise to the Holy Gardener!

  • Georgeann Kreiter

    July 18, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Love the analogy for our daily living.

  • Sue Grove

    July 18, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Amen, Sara. Just so. St. Paul’s July Godspan interfaith journey fits right into your thoughts of celebrating diversity.

  • Tammy Lewis

    July 18, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Love this Sarah. We had a sunflower pop up in our front yard. I kept it until it was finished blooming. It was beautiful. I love your analogy in this chaotic world and life. Thanks for your words.

  • Debbie Case

    July 18, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Pastor Sara, I love your beautiful view of the world. Only you could envision and create a garden of such beauty and chaos all in one! A great analogy of how we all come together in the name of Christ. Thank you for sharing this message that reminds me that chaos is definitely the time we grow the most.

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