Over the last few weeks, three separate childcare establishments have sent my children home with sunflower seeds stuck in a pot.
I’m sure other mothers receive these with delight, and have children who eagerly run to water them every morning. Since we are the Robinsons, one pot sat in the boot of the car for a few days while another, wrapped in clingfilm, mouldered forgotten in the bottom of a school bag for a week.
Pot number three suffered an accident: my son turned the whole thing upside-down in a disastrous over-estimation of how much he needed to tilt the pot to peer in. I attempted to comfort him by sweeping everything into the pot, guessing which end was shoot and which root, and sticking them back.
That pot caught my attention this morning. In contrast to Clingfilm Pot and Car Boot Pot, which still have only a few leaves barely peeping over the edge, the hastily replanted seeds have shot up to about 20cm high and are growing longingly towards the window. One of them raced upwards so quickly that it fell flat on its face: but even that one has rallied and now valiantly grows at a right-angle so that its leaves, too, are facing the sun.
Sunflowers really do face the sun, don’t they? I remember, as a child, driving past fields of them in France and marvelling that they had somehow been planted to grow in such regimented order at the same precise angle, until my father (never one to miss a teachable moment) explained it to me. I would watch them in awe, trying to catch them in a moment of secret synchronised swivelling.
Sunflowers reaching for the source of their strength make an obvious metaphor for the Christian life, but it’s their sheer determination to do it against all odds that strikes me. That right-angled one would have found it much easier to grow out into the room, and could have had an attractive, straight stem, but no - its bent for sun worship trumped those considerations.
The seeds in Jesus’ parable grow a bit of root, hit rock and give up, like a Christian who falls away “when trouble or persecution arises on account of the Word” (Matthew 13:21). Not so our Pot Three Sunflowers. Neglect them, spill them, uproot them, and they still refuse the easy route, instead using all the resources they have to reach the one thing that gives them a purpose and a name.
As writers, we encounter plenty of obstacles. We may spend weeks in a car boot, parched for inspiration, or rapidly scribble five pages growing in the wrong direction. We may send off a beautifully polished manuscript to an editor, but get it back in the form of small shoots that have been scattered, scooped up and shoved back with no regard for how we originally planted them. But as a Christian, and as a writer, I have this challenge: to make sure that, whatever happens, my words continue to face the Son. However much extra effort that takes, and however much I may have to abandon my own ideas of what makes a beautiful plant, it’s the only really important thing.
She is a performance storyteller, writer and ventriloquist, and children's worker for a four-church benefice. In the past, her writing has appeared in Scripture Union's Light for the Lectionary series and All Age Annual; in a regular guest blog for Families First, the Mothers' Union magazine; and in scripts and holiday club guides for GenR8. She has also had two books about puppetry and storytelling published by Kevin Mayhew.
She possesses many half-finished knitting projects, several abandoned blogs and, at any given moment, at least one cold cup of tea.