Monday, May 4, 2020

Children and Hollyhocks

My dining room is full of hollyhocks. Last year, I had the grand idea of planting 400 pots of these lovely flowers--the former owners of our home grew old fashioned hollyhocks on our property and I love their sweet, simple beauty. We have a farm stand; I sell flowers there sometimes, and so last fall, I collected thousands of tiny hollyhock seeds with the intention of planting them in the early spring to sell on our farm stand. 



I dried the seeds painstakingly and protected them from the little mice that sometimes appear in the attic of our old farmhouse. I collected yogurt and other plastic containers as well as pre-used plastic flower pots. They quickly began to fill our little milk house (where I keep some of my gardening things). In the early spring, I began to fill pots up with my two children and my niece. 400 pots in an attic is a lot of pots! I realized this mid-job. And yet, undeterred, we carried on. At the end of it all, we filled a little over 300 pots with garden soil; then came the job of sorting the seeds and planting them in the pots. This took several days. At the end of it all, when my little seedlings started to sprout, I realized that the attic wasn't providing enough light! There is one large window in our attic and many of the plants weren't getting the light from that window--they were looking sickly--I would say that they were looking green and sickly, but plants are supposed to be green ;-). And so, I decided to transfer the over-300 hollyhock babies into my light-filled dining room (well, at least when the clouds aren't hiding the sun here in the sometimes-temperamental Midwest ;-)). I set up folding tables in my dining room and made a kind of greenhouse there--I could watch the plants and water them and pray that they would grow being right before my very eyes as I  home schooled my two children at our dining room table. 

As I went through this process, a lot of thoughts went through my mind. I do a lot of gardening, but have never grown plants on this "grand" scale, and well, I was learning all along the way! I believe that the Lord teaches us His lessons through everyday, very common things, and all sorts of "lessons" came into my thinking. Many of them were related to my children and I began making connections between growing these 300 plus hollyhock babies and raising them. 

I wanted to share some of the little lessons that the Lord brought to my mind and my heart as I tended to my hollyhocks; they were an encouragement and a reminder to me--I pray that they will also be to you!




The soil must be deep and have good drainage~~
We had to fill over 300 pots and containers to grow our hollyhock seeds. I had all different kinds of containers, some gifted to and some acquired by me.  I realized that the "shallower" pots were not going to allow my seeds to grow properly into plants, so I tried to select the ones that would allow the roots to go down deep enough to be established. The containers that didn't have holes in the bottom (such as yogurt containers, etc.) required them for drainage, and so my nephew used his drill to put drainage holes into the bottoms of them. 

The same is true for children. Our homes are like our "pots." The kind of "pots" that we have will determine strongly what kind of "plants" or adults our children will become. Our homes (growing containers :-)) must be deep spiritually. They must contain the rich, nourishing soil of the Word of God. They must be filled with the fertilizer of truth and righteousness mixed alongside the minerals of mercy and forgiveness. We "water" our little seeds in our homes with love and wholesome words, with the refreshment of loving discipline and with words of exhortation and encouragement. And we never want that "water" to be stagnant, sitting at the bottom of the pot, creating a moldy mess--it is needs to be clean, clear, and flowing, creating and causing the seeds to come out of their shell and emerge into the light. Our words and actions in our homes should effect change and transformation, not stagnation or frustration. How many of us need help in this area? I know that I do! Only the grace and work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and homes will make a transforming difference--creating peace out of chaos. Our "wells" are not deep enough--and often they run dry. The Holy Spirit is a daily, living resource to tap into--where the life-giving water that always flows runs continually. When we admit that we are not able, not capable, and reach out our hands to Him, He fills our empty" "watering cans" with His water. 



Hollyhocks and other plants need light to thrive and grow
Another lesson that I learned as I planted and watched my little hollyhocks sprout up is the importance of light. I thought that our attic might be a good place to keep these little hollyhocks--it has a good sized window and a fair amount of light. But the more that I watched my hollyhocks develop, the more that I realized that the light there just wasn't enough. Many of the hollyhocks in the corners of the attic had weak stems and looked sickly. I quickly assessed the situation and decided that the hollyhocks needed an exodus downstairs into my dining room (where there is a lot more light) if they were going to survive and thrive. My kids and I tromped up and down the stairs, transferring all of those little seedlings before it was too late. I think that this step of action saved them from certain death--they began to lift their little heads up and their stems looked less "see-through." They were becoming more hearty. 

Isn't this true of our children, too? They need sunshine in their lives--creativity, meaningful conversations with adults, someone to read to them, someone to imaging and to play with them, someone to encourage them in their creativity and in their daily work. They also need the sunshine or light of being daily taught about Jesus --It's fascinating in a very simple way that Jesus is called "the Light" of the world." What does light do? It illuminates darkness. Bringing Jesus perpetually and continually into our conversations with our children and into our daily actions as we walk with Him as a Friend in our homes brings a sunshiny glow to our children's upbringing--a joy that can only come through the Holy Spirit of God and His sustaining influence in our lives as He illumines our darkness. 

Do you crave this kind of light? I know that I do~~call out to Jesus and He will teach you how to bring His light into your home~~He never turns away anyone who asks. We can try to create a "spiritual home atmosphere," but it is only when we invite the Holy Spirit in that this will become real and alive. Let the sunshine of His sweet presence fill your soul early in the day--spend time in His Word--talk to Him--and then bring that sunshine into your home as you talk to and teach and discipline and love your children. He will help you; He will do the work as you obey Him. 

Hollyhocks need water 
Oh, yes! This is important! As a busy mom, often "watering" was one of the last things on my mind. I had to keep reminding myself to water those little seedlings in the attic, and then to continue to consistently water them after they made their short journey downstairs. It's truly amazing what a big difference a little water makes!  A couple of days of neglect and my little seedlings were looking pale and weak. As soon as I watered them consistently, they thrived. 

Isn't this true in a child's life as well? At times, we grow "busy" with all of the responsibilities of daily life. We live in a world that encourages this kind of busy, rushing and racing around. We also deal daily with all of the distractions of technology--often we "connect" with people who we don't really know to the neglect of those closest to us! Friend, often I need to remind myself to be "busy" with what is truly the Lord's work--making certain that what I am doing is really His will for my life. At times, I've been sidetracked and distracted by the cares of this life, or caught up in some project or interest that is a weight and a worry to me. During those times, I've sensed the Holy Spirit lovingly and firmly drawing me back to Himself, to what is really important--to "feeding" the little sheep that He has given to me. Often, we are throwing water all over the place--little bits and droplets here and there when we should be concentrating on the specific purposes that God has called us to in our lives. One of these if we have children, is the souls of our little ones. As believers, this should be one of our primary concerns and focuses of our life. How do we "water" our little ones? The answer is TIME and consistency. We give them our time, we teach them in the ways of the Lord, we bring them alongside of us as much as we are able in our projects and pursuits, we deal with discipline issues rather than ignoring them; we pray daily for their souls and encourage them to walk with the Lord in their little lives. And when we "water" our children daily, without neglecting them, we will see the miracle of God's hand causing them to thrive and grow in His time. 

The little seedlings need to be supported and established.  
This is probably one of the most important lessons that I learned in this whole process. As the little hollyhock seedlings began to pop out of the soil, they were leaning--their weak stems weren't strong enough to hold many of them up. My Mom suggested that I put a little more soil around each one of them and gently push the soil near the base of the stem to support the plant and to encourage it to "straighten up." It took me about a week to painstakingly go through almost every little hollyhock plant and to gently reinforce it's stem. At the end of the process, some of the little plants died, but most of them started looking a little stronger and perking up. It was worth it to take that week and to meticulously go through almost every plant. 



This was one of the strongest lessons that struck home to me as it relates to children. Sometimes there are "weak spots" that we see in the way that we have raised our little ones. It may be a discipline issue, it may be a parenting issue on our end in some particular area. Maybe we should have been more consistent in another area. Our children's "stems" are a little weak and we're not really sure how their final "hollyhock" is going to look! Instead of despairing or allowing discouragement to overwhelm us, the answer comes in painstakingly strengthening the "stems." No matter how long it takes--or how tedious it becomes--the God of all grace is with us to help us.  Perhaps our little seedling's root is not deep enough--we should have pushed the seed in further--perhaps our little seedling did not get enough water or light. The answer is not to give up hope and just let come whatever may--to allow the plant to flop over. The answer is to strengthen the stem of the plant. We do this through prayer--praying over the mistakes we may have made in different areas with our children (and we have all made mistakes; we have all fallen short!) And we do this through carefully doing right in those areas that the Lord has shown us we need to work on. Day by day. Moment by moment. Dealing with the issues--not ignoring them--strengthening the stem. Pushing the rich soil of consistency around the base of the stem. Praying to the Lord to strengthen the little plants and being faithful. The Lord will bless us and our children if we truly want them to love the Lord with all of their hearts and to grow in His ways. He is a God of grace and He will bless us as we obey Him in our lives with our children. 

The plants must be hardened.
After all of the careful days of watering, watching, and protecting, comes the "hardening" phase in the lives of plants. There comes a time, just before the plants are transferred outside completely, that they must adapt to the cooler temperatures that they may face outside, away from the gentle, protecting care of the home and its pretty "unchanging" temperature. And so the plants need to be brought outside for increasingly longer periods of time to get used to being "away from home!" :-) 

Children also need to be "hardened" (and by "hardened," what I don't mean in this context is made less sensitive to the things around them, but more sensitive in His strength through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit). They need to grow strong in their faith when "cooler" winds test them. They need to embrace their faith as their own, and not merely as the faith of their parents. I believe that the greatest thing that this generation needs is young people who take the Lord seriously, who hold the promises of Scripture to heart, who are not afraid to stand in a world that will hate them and persecute them for identifying with Jesus Christ. Our children need to be "hardened." They need to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power without, finally, our support. I pray this for my children--that they will be willing to stand against the powerful flow of this culture and remain faithful to Jesus Christ until the end. How do we hope that they will do this? Well; ultimately the outcome is in the Lord's hands--but through out daily example, we may encourage them to take a stand against the wickedness of the culture around us. We may instill the principles of Scripture and the theology of the hymns of old into their minds and their hearts. And ultimately, we may be on our knees, imploring the Lord to make our children strong in Him and trusting Him to work in and through them. He is the One who does the work when we humbly come before Him. We need "hardened" (strong, courageous, hearty, bold-in-love) Christians in this world more than ever. And they will be the salt and light of their generation. 

The plants will ultimately reflect His mercy and grace
When all is said and done; when the hollyhocks are brought outside and planted in the warm, receptive soil, when their roots take deep confidence, when their green stems spring up and their beautiful faces reflect the light . . . they are reflecting the mercy and grace of their beautiful Creator  . . . we were only the hands and mouths and feet and hearts that God used, by His grace alone, to plant and to protect and to encourage and to nurture. He does the work in and through us as we yield to Him in the process of bringing our children up by His grace. Each step is grace. Each milestone is a mercy. It is all of Him. And the glory of the flowers that we grow reflect the One who formed their very seed and pronounced it good. Praise be to God for His grace and mercy!



Have you made any mistakes as you grow up your hollyhocks? We have all made mistakes~~thank God for grace, recognize the mistake, and correct it, as He helps and enables you~~get your hands back in the soil and press on through the strength and grace that He alone gives. 

Children and hollyhocks; there are so many wonderful comparisons that can be drawn between "growing" the two. I pray that the Lord will bless these lessons to your heart as much as He has blessed me in teaching me and sharing them. <3 

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