My neighbor has a sunflower growing in front of her garage door. It sprouted in July, and she has let it grow and bloom over the past couple of months. She was generous with this unexpected flower because she doesn’t park her car in the garage; she just uses it for storage. This unexpected bloom is bright and adds color to the weeds, dumpsters and recycle bins in the alley.
Gardeners call these unexpected flowers “volunteers.” Some gardeners don’t like volunteers, and use mulch, landscape fabric and aggressive weeding to keep the garden going according to plan. I have a more open stance toward volunteers. While I have a plan for my garden, I let unexpected plants grow for a while, until I decide if they merit a place, or should be dug out.
I remember one year when another neighbor planted a batch of wildflower seeds in his garden. Eventually, there were lots of bachelor buttons in my flower bed. I welcomed the blue invasion. After the flowers were done blooming, I didn’t feel bad about ripping out the excess foliage. The volunteers had brightened the garden. They reseeded and I had several years of bachelor buttons, until the poppies encroached and I voted in favor of poppies.
The hardy pink rose that climbs my front fence sent out separate shoots last spring. I decided to dig up the shoots and plant them along my back fence. I won’t really know until next spring if the move was successful, but I would welcome more roses!
I do draw the line at Siberian Elm seeds. I have 2 very large Siberian Elm trees. They have a strong desire to procreate and in the spring, thousands of elm seeds blanket my yard. If I don’t get after the weeding, little elms sprout everywhere. They are easy to pull up at first, but if I miss a few shoots, they get harder to eradicate. And I don’t want Siberian Elms taking over my yard.
Volunteers in the garden can provide welcome color and life, or they can be invasive. Unexpected events in our lives have the same outcome – they can be welcome blessings or noisy distractions.
While I can plan for soul growth by setting aside time for prayer, meditation, reading and reflection, there are also unexpected spurts of growth, that don’t come through my own effort or planning.
A few weeks ago I was headed home from errands as the sun dipped toward the mountains on the horizon; the colors in the sky started changing into beautiful hues. I could see the unfolding beauty, but I decided to turn off the road and stop in a parking lot. I wanted to sit in awe, without worrying about traffic. The amazing sunset was a quiet reminder to notice the beauty of the Creator and to thank him for life and breath.
Unexpected moments of flowering occur all around me, certainly much more often than I notice them. But when I slow down, pause, look and ponder, then I am more able to see and appreciate the unexpected touch on my soul, the volunteers in my life.
Often a soul moment comes in the form of a conversation. God regularly speaks through others, if I am listening. Sometimes it’s just a phrase or a thought that makes an impression. My soul may receive something completely different from what the speaker intended, but if the moment is ripe, and I am open to listening and receiving, I can benefit from unexpected flowering.
Of course, just like the prolific and unwelcome elm seeds, not every unexpected soul moment is wonderful. Sometimes the volunteers take the form of interruptions crowding into my life, agitating my soul. My predilection to be a news junkie often overwhelms my soul and requires me to push aside all noise and bask in silence. Do I really need to hear the latest “update” which is often a rehash of something I already know. Or even something that I don’t really need to know.
The seeds of unexpected moments are sown generously, but we can easily miss their presence and step on the tender shoots. The more I live in anticipation of hearing God’s voice, the more likely my soul will benefit from unexpected moments.
So today I have a plan – for my garden, and for my day. But I also want to cultivate eyes and ears for the unexpected. Will you join me?