The Sunflower House activities for grandparents and their grandchildren have been such a blessing to our family and, I hope, to yours in so many ways this year. From senior gardening fun to teaching grandkids about growing plants to spiritual lessons as we watched the gorgeous blooms keep their "eyes" fixed on the sun, it's made for many fun educational activities for grandparents and their grandchildren. As I was reviewing some of the photos I was struck by the way they mirrored our various seasons of life.
First they are young – like our sweet grandkids (and like we once were – once upon a time). They need plenty of water, sprinkled on them daily – the water of God's encouraging Bible verses, lots of love, plenty of hugs, and firm, loving discipline.
“The work of grace has its root in the divine goodness of the Father, it is planted by the self-denying goodness of the Son, and it is daily watered by the goodness of the Holy Spirit; it springs from good and leads to good, and so is altogether good.” (Spurgeon via David Guzik)
Just as we enjoyed watching the Mammoth Sunflower growing each day, we also are blessed to wach as our grandchildren grow – physically and spiritually – unfolding one "petal" at a time as we keep encouraging them to face the Son of God!
Then the sunflower enters the "summer" season of its life which I equate to our adult kids. During this season our kids, Lord willing, stand firm and are so confident. We pray for them constantly – for wisdom, provision, guidance.
After I wrote this, I took a brisk walk around the block, while listening to one of the verse by verse Bible studies by David Guzik speaking from Philippians. God used that to remind me of this short and simple Scripture prayer which is a wonderful one to pray for all our beloveds. Don't you love it when God spotlights something in your daily Bible study that is so perfect for what you are doing?
I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Phil. 1:9-11
I don't know about you, but I am so blessed by their strength and the help they often provide, from opening jars to carrying heavy things, to comforting hugs when the Sandwich Generation issues are feeling a bit overwhelming! And I am also blessed to be able to keep encouraging them in their walk with Jesus, through word, deed, and prayer, as they do the same for me.
Now the sunflower reaches the "autumn" season. That's my season of life – how about you? Do you also find that the storms seem to be a bit more frequent now? I think it's because we have so many more beloveds we are caring for and caring about. When a storm hits them, it hits us as well. Whether it's caring for elderly parents who have gotten ill, a child who is working through a trial, or a grandkid who is hurting – not to mention friends and other relatives – we are there with them – either physically helping them or standing with them from a distance in praying for them in our own words or with Scripture verses.
Sometimes we come through the storms strong, sometimes we may feel a bit wilted, but when we keep our eyes fixed on God, we know HE will provide abundantly – for us and for our beloveds – even when we don't quite understand all that is going on.
As Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28,
We KNOW that God causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Finally, the sunflower is an aging senior, as are many of our beloved elderly parents. It's often a quieter season of life, but in watching my sweet parents and senior relatives, I am encouraged that it is still a useful season of life. The sunflower may not be as strong as it used to be – but look at all the sunflower seeds in the core.
It will provide nourishment for little critters in our yard – in yours it might be a delightful snack for grandkids. But either way, it follows Paul's encouraging words in Philippians 2:
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
Paul worked hard to share his faith and deep, abiding love for God with his churches, giving of himself fully – pouring himself out like a drink offering – just as this Sunflower is doing at the end of its cycle of life. And we can do the same. Even if we reach a season in life when we can't be very active, we actually CAN still be quite active through our prayers – for family, for friends, for others as God leads. What an awesome ministry!
One other blessing the sunflower reminds us of. While this Mammoth Sunflower has come to the end of its life – it really hasn't. It has just come to the end of THIS life. But by planting its seeds, it will spring forth next year with a new life. So too, when you "confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved," you know that, when death finally arrives, it's just the beginning! The beginning of a whole new life in heaven with our precious Savior. And even though this is where we diverge from the Sunflower (it will die again next year – in heaven we will NEVER die again), we can still appreciate the sweet story the Sunflower gives us! And be blessed with KNOWING that in heaven, as John writes in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the sweetly encouraging Bible verses 21:1-8 (KJV):
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away ; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying , Behold , the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said , Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Aren't you looking forward to that day when there will be no more tears and no more sorrow! There's plenty of joy on this old earth, but there are so many tears too! Especially for many of us in the Sandwich Generation, caring for elderly parents and helping with sweet grandkids, including those with special needs! But someday!!!
We have truly enjoyed the Sunflower House and have so many special family memories that will be a treasure for years to come. But now we'll also remember that these lovely sunflowers are a promise of the bright future we will share with God when we are His children! How about you?
For more sweet shots, check out Sweet Shot Tuesday.
P.S. If you'd like more devotions of special comfort for seniors and boomers, I highly recommend Randy Alcorn's two books, 50 Days of Heaven: Reflections That Bring Eternity to Light and Ninety Days of God's Goodness: Daily Reflections That Shine Light on Personal Darkness, along with his wonderfully comprehensive book on heaven, appropriately titled, Heaven. Full of encouraging and comforting Bible verses, these books have blessed many, including me!