My Chef set up a pizza bar for dinner, little bowls with choices of bright red and green peppers, basil from the kitchen garden, onions both purple and white, bright romas and earthy mushrooms. Containers of seasonings, a bag of shredded mozzarella, personal pizza crusts, a tiny bit of olive oil, a pastry brush. Chef was ready for dinner and pizza class. He and Plum got to work. A most patient teacher, Chef picked up bowl after bowl and presented them to Plum. Chef asked him to smell the contents, identify each item. Mama and I were captivated. I would have just told him, rushed through the process. Chef fully involved Plum in such a way that he would then remember as he began to create. Together they spread oil on the bottom of the crust, flipped it over and then slathered sauce. Plum chose his toppings, created his meal. Our new pizza master then made pizzas for mama and me. We all gathered around this child as he prepared gifts for us, gifts laid out by Chef, staying within his glow, hanging on each piece of joy he shared. Glances at mama’s face to see her eyes smiling, Chef’s face devoid of worry in this moment, I knew we all were feeling the warmth of his spirit.
After dinner we skipped the dishes and escaped to the play set. Time is precious now with my Plum. He abandoned me for formal education, no longer my daily playmate and joy bringer. I have to make do with dinners midweek and every other week end. He is tired, learning to read and follow rules that can’t be pushed with a sweet smile at grandma wears him out. I push him on the swing and delight as his smelly little boy feet come near, catching the scent of this babe I once rocked. He wants to go higher, higher, he doesn’t realize he is going farther away as well. I could stay there all night, pushing and waiting, listening to giggles. His day catches up, though, bedtime is nearing.
No longer full of energy to run, he listlessly pulled petals from the stray sunflowers around the porch. Fascinated by flowers, he has done this since he could crawl. I haven’t taught him to leave them alone. I have taught him to explore, to feel them, I plant extras around the yard knowing little hands will find delight in their discovery. This night he wondered about the seeds. We moved to the huge sunflower in the front, the lone stalk that survived the squirrels and the dogs. Rocking together on my old porch swing, side by side we harvested. Peeling away layers of outer leaves, scrubbing away the inner covering, we found the seeds hidden. Hundreds of seeds, amazingly arranged each in a safe pocket, one flower able to feed and bring new life long after it is gone. Sunflower legacy. My sweet Plum carefully arranged seeds atop his boulder on the edge of the yard, away from dogs, for the birds to reach. He found other seeds and picked flowers for the bees. He asked for a piece of bread, tore it into small bits, arranged it on his new nature center. Not caring about the big picture of other feeders full of seeds, plenty of flowers for the bees, he created his own gathering place. He asks me to watch over his offerings of grace when it is time for him to leave.
This child is the stray sunflower, not intentionally planted but part of God’s plan to feed us all. He shines more brightly for the unexpectedness of all that is him, his face raised to the Son amidst all the battles for his very survival. A heart so pure, so freely giving of grace, his soul nourishes us all as we gather around him. He shows us God. I realize while I am pushing that swing, I am stable, solid, steady. I am watching My plum to be sure he is still holding tightly, still firmly in the seat, I watch for weariness, I help him go higher, ready to catch him. Does my God do any less? Plum reminds me that as I swing away from God, He still delights in me, waits for my return, eagerly accepting me in my filth, shame, in my exhaustion. My Father is pushing me, up and away, into the world to do His work. He listens for my giggles. God sends me out again, again, higher, farther, hoping I will find His flowers and spread some seeds, I will make His pizzas and feed His family. God wants me to see all He has hidden inside of me, safely in little pockets, waiting for me to expose them to the sun. Seeds ignored grow moldy, no good to anyone. God plants flowers in unexpected places, waiting for me to discover them with joy. I am a flower also, discovering me.
This child is no longer my little playmate, he may always be my teacher. Maybe I show the Face of God to him, He surely is His face for me. May I always be open to learning and feasting at his table, may I always remember to plant extra flowers. When he no longer needs me to push him, I will still listen for his giggles, still gather close to catch the scent of this babe who came to bring me grace.