I’ve never done much in competitions that require a judge – competitions like dog shows, gymnastics, diving and ice skating. Blame communist Olympic judges and a strong mountain clan mentality. Frankly, I will always believe that my dog ​​is worthy of the Westminster title “Best in Show”, even though we were never able to sniff out the genuine pedigree papers for Blue Boy. Give me horse racing, baseball and the biggest pumpkin. Show me a clear winner, points or races on a scoreboard and a finish line to cross first.

But then, for some reason, those strong beliefs go up in barbecue smoke when it comes to the county fair.

On the evening of the prayer meeting, the boys and I juggled our entrees: eggs, beans, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, fresh flowers and, of course, honey. As I handed over the dozen eggs for display, I thought of the incubator buzzing on my kitchen counter last winter. Chicks in a tote in the basement, garage, barn and finally the chicken coop, oh how I celebrated their coming of age.

Then there were the beans. While I enjoy the taste of half-runners, I am emotionally invested in their lore. When I was little, I fell asleep to the peaceful sound of my parents slapping and threading. Like those chicks, I’ve matured. Now I thread and write late into the evening with Wade, and I love it.

Each item had a story. How many bites have been braved for this pot of honey, how many blisters from hoeing peppers, how many prayers for these potatoes. I handed over the bouquet of sunflowers, my pride and joy for the fair, and took a deep breath. Would we win anything? Would the judges see the value of our work?

“Who’s got the name on this one?” The nice lady from the fair board gestured towards the flowers.

“Me!” My son came forward with a big smile. In his mind, he had hauled them from the car to the entry table, and his most recent effort equaled ownership.

We lingered around quilt displays, chatted with neighbors, assessed the (mostly) friendly competition, but I couldn’t stop thinking. To whom belonged the name of these flowers? Who could lay claim to one of these garden wonders?

Sunflowers have got to be the most enjoyable farm business. Happy flowers for brides. Tasty seeds for children. Promises of dove shoots for husbands…

After deciding to plant a field of sunflowers, Wade bought the seeds, plowed the ground, and a buddy helped us plant. It didn’t rain for over a month and the sun scorched the earth. The birds descended on the field and gorged themselves with seeds. Weeds grew, threatening to stifle any hope of flowers. But, because of the cajoling of the angels, bursts of yellow began to stain the horizon. It was a miracle that flowers grew, let alone an entire field.

With the start of the school year, I am aware that every day is an opportunity to plant a seed. I have often wondered what are the best ways to share the gift of faith with my children, how to ensure that these seeds of faith fall on fertile ground, how to protect their young hearts from the distortions of the world that seek to devour it or suffocate it. As parents, we must be the first example of faith for our children. It’s daunting, especially given the stakes of eternity.

Generally, we focus on the physical and mental well-being of our children. When will they start walking or potty training? Are they getting too much screen time? Is he eating enough vegetables? Are we doing enough or too much extracurricular? Should we hire a math tutor? Consider, how do we take care of their soul, the immortal part of these little human beings? How do we know we’re doing all this parenting stuff right?

Honey is judged on flavor, color, water concentration and cleanliness. Corn is judged on its maturity and condition, such as whether there are signs of disease or insect damage to the kernels or stalk. Children? Praise the Lord, they are all deemed precious in His eyes.

Beyond the barn, the field of sunflowers becomes more golden. There is so much variety, red, yellow, chocolate orange, white, large, small and everything in between. Sunflowers have a property called “heliotropism”, which is the directional growth of a plant in response to the sun. From dawn to dusk, the flower’s head literally turns to face the sunlight. All day long, this sunshine allows the plant to grow, brilliantly and beautifully.

Like county fair produce, we judge sunflowers and potatoes and everything else by the quality and beauty of its fruit. At harvest time, sunflowers will be heavy with the fruit of thousands of sunflower seeds. What a beautiful reminder, that a life centered on the sun, for us, the Son of God, will make us grow, mature us and produce a fruitful life. And here’s more hope: Even when it seems like there’s no rain, or the birds are devouring our seeds, or the weeds of the world are smothering any attempt at growth, the angels must still care. of the delicate shoot… and of us.

Pray for the success and safety of our children this school year, for parents who plant seeds of faith, and in thanks for the bountiful harvest. For the record: our sunflowers weren’t the biggest or the tallest, but we got a blue ribbon for our bouquet (and for our honey, and surprisingly, the tomatoes!).

Neena Gaynor is a wife, mother and beekeeper from Kentucky. Her new children’s picture book, A GARDEN FOR MARY, is available wherever books are sold. Find out more on his website, www.wordslikehoney.com.

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