Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Unplanter

The Unplanter

By Lydia Evelyn Thomas

(Copyright: Lydia Thomas 2016)

Once upon a time, there was woman who loved to plant seeds. Early each spring, she would rush to the market to carefully select the seeds she wanted to plant in the little garden behind her house. She especially loved looking at the pictures on the seed packets and imagining what her garden could be. Every year, after she had purchased them, she would hurry home to plant the different seeds in her garden, singing and skipping the entire way.

Like any good seed-planter, every year, she cleared the little plot of rocks and weeds and broke up the soil before painstakingly marking the rows where the seeds would go. Then she dropped the seeds into the dirt, one by one, and lovingly covered them with dirt.

In the days that followed, every year, she added fertilizer and water to the soil to make sure the seeds were getting the food and drink they needed. If it got too cold, she would cover the ground with blankets so the cold air couldn’t get to the seeds. And she always kept an eye out for weeds that might be trying to steal food and water from the seeds, or rocks that might be trying to keep the seeds from growing, or anything that might hurt the seeds.

She waited and waited, every year, for a week, at least, to see if anything would happen, and nothing ever did. She worried: were the seeds getting enough to eat and drink? Were the seeds getting too much to eat and drink? Were the seeds staying warm enough? Were they too warm? Was something hurting the seeds that she couldn’t see?

And so, every year, a few days after planting them, she dug up the seeds and returned them to the market.

“These seeds didn’t grow into anything,” she would say, spreading them out on the counter. “I’d like my money back, please.”

The man who sold her the seeds would frown, and every year, he told her this: “There is an old gardening term called staying.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that things have to stay planted in order to grow.”

The woman didn’t believe him, and so she continued planting seeds and digging them up for many years.

One year, early in the spring, the woman came to the market, excited as she always was to choose seeds that would make a beautiful garden.

“I’d like to see your seeds, please.”

The man who sold her seeds shook his head. “I’m not going to sell you any seeds this year.”

“Why not?”

The man shrugged. “It’s wasteful. You plant them, only to dig them up again. They can’t be used ever again after that.”

“I won’t dig them up this year, I promise. Please let me buy some seeds.

The man shook his head. He didn’t believe her. “We sell some plants in pots that have already been grown, if you’d like to buy some of those, but I cannot sell you any more seeds.”

The woman bought some pots in plants at his suggestion, but this year, unlike all the other years, she was not happy walking home from the market. She didn’t want plants that had already been grown. She very badly wanted to grow something of her own, from a seed.

Still, she set the plants on her front porch, and made sure to take care of them, every bit as well as she had taken care of seeds when she’d had them. One day, as she watered the plants, a man strolled by.

“Beautiful plants,” he said. “Did you grow them yourself?”

The woman sighed. “No. I bought them already grown. The market won’t sell me seeds anymore.”

“Why not?”

“When seeds don’t grow, I dig them up.”

“How long do you wait before digging them up?”

The woman put her hands on her hips. “I’ve waited as long as a week before.”

“Only a week? That’s not long enough!” The man smiled. “Seeds have to stay planted in order to grow.”

“That’s what the man at the market told me,” the woman said, “but what if something is wrong with the seeds? How will I know if I can’t see them?”

“Do you give the seeds food and water?” the man asked.

“Yes.”

“Do you keep weeds and rocks away from the seeds?”

“Yes.”

“Do you protect the seeds when it might get too cold or too hot for them?”

“Yes!” the woman exclaimed. “I do everything I’m supposed to do.”

“Everything except for letting the seeds stay planted,” the man said. “That’s the most important part.”

“But”- the woman protested.

“Seeds grow,” the man said. “It’s what they do. They just have to stay planted. I wish you could see it.”

“I wish I could see it, too,” the woman said, “but where will I get seeds? The market won’t sell them to me anymore.”

“I might have just the thing.” The man pulled a seed packet out of his pocket and held it out to the woman.

The woman looked down at it and frowned. “It doesn’t show what it will

be.”

“It doesn’t,” the man said, “but it’s the only seed I have.”

“There’s only one seed?” the woman asked, eyes wide.

The man smiled. “Only one, but legend has it that when it’s grown, it gives more seeds.” The woman just stared at him. “Plant it. You’ll see.”

“I guess it never hurts to try,” the woman said, taking the seed packet.

“Just remember,” the man said. “It will only grow if it stays planted.”

The very next morning, the woman went back to her garden. As she always did, she pulled up the weeds, picked out the rocks, and broke up the ground. Then she thought about where to plant the one seed. Should she plant it on the edge? Near a corner? In the middle? In the middle, she decided, and dug a small hole. Pulling the seed packet out of her sweater, she took a deep breath, and crouched to the ground. She shook the little seed out into the hole. It was so small and dark, she could barely see it. Slowly, she covered it with dirt, before standing and brushing off her knees.

The next day, the woman went to her garden again.  As she had done with the other seeds, she gave them food and water, working it into the soil with her trowel around where she knew the seed was planted. That night, when the air became colder, she covered the garden with blankets.

And, day after day, she watched for something to show her the seed was growing. A week went by, and then a month, and still she could see nothing above the dirt. She grew restless, and began running her hands through the dirt near where the seed was planted. Remembering the man’s words when he had given her the seed – “It will grow if it stays planted” – she stood up, brushed off her knees, and went inside.

Months went by, and still the woman cared for the garden, waiting. One day, after the dead autumn leaves had fallen and blown away, as the woman spread mulch over the soil for the winter months, she saw a small green chute where she had planted the seed so long ago.

“Well, that will never last the winter,” she said, hands on her hips.

She thought about digging it up, but again, she remembered, “It will grow if it stays planted.

“I don’t see how,” she muttered, but she spread mulch around the chute, and left it where it was.

The air became so cold and the ground froze so that the woman could no longer work in her garden. In fact, snow began to fall and fall until it was too high for her to even leave her house. She was certain the chute would die in the cold, and it made her sad.

At last, the air grew warmer, the snow melted, and the ground thawed, the woman went out to visit her garden.

The green chute was gone!

In its place was the tiniest of saplings, barely a foot tall.

The woman clapped her hands and bounced up and down. She was growing a tree! A tree!

“I’m glad I listened to that man and didn’t dig up the seed.”

She was so delighted that she went to the market to buy more seeds now that she had learned the secret to growing them, but the man who sold seeds laughed at her.

“You’re the woman who digs up seeds,” he said.

“I’m not anymore,” the woman said. “Last year, a man gave me a seed.”

“Who would give you a seed?” the man who sold seeds asked.

“I don’t know,” the woman said. “He was just passing by, but he told me to keep it planted, and I did. Now it’s going to be a tree.”

Again, the man who sold seeds laughed. “I don’t believe you.”

“Come and see,” the woman said and led him home to her garden. She pointed to the tiny sapling at the center.

The man who sold seeds squinted at it. “That looks like nothing more than an overgrown weed.”

“It’s a tree,” the woman insisted. “I know it’s a tree.”

“You don’t have the patience for a tree,” the man who sold seeds said, turning and walking away.

“I do now,” the woman said. “Please, sell me some seeds. I’ll show you.”

“I will never sell you seeds again.”

The woman was very sad, because she loved to plant seeds, and now that she’d seen how they could grow, she wanted to see it again and again. How could she, though, if she couldn’t buy seeds?

Suddenly, she brightened. The man who  had given her the seed had said something about it making more seeds. A legend, he had said, so maybe it wasn’t true at all, but the idea gave the woman hope.

Throughout the spring and summer, the woman tended her garden as usual, watching the sapling for signs of seeds.  Then the air began to cool, and she prepared her garden for the winter. There were no seeds, but perhaps, like everything else, it just took time for them to come.

Years passed, and every year, the woman cared for her garden, and every year, the tree grew taller and wider around, until it far surpassed the woman’s height and width. It was majestic, with many branches, and green needles that never lost their color nor fell to the ground, no matter how cold the air became. Year after year, there were no seeds, and the woman began to think the legend surrounding the tree was just a story. Still, she was quite proud of her tree.

One year, small brown cones sprouted on the branches in the spring and fell to the ground in the crisp autumn air. The woman went through her garden plucking them up into a bucket, thinking they would decorate her house nicely, when she found a cone that had split open during its fall.

The woman knelt down to look closer at the split cone and gasped. Seeds of all shapes and sizes were spilling out of it! Seeds! The woman pulled a cone out of her bucket and pried it open. There were seeds inside of it, too!

“Those seeds aren’t good enough to use yet.”

The woman turned to see who was speaking to her. It was the man who had given her the seed.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“The tree isn’t fully mature yet,” the man said, “so any seeds it produces aren’t ready to be planted. If you put those in the ground, they’ll just rot.”

The woman’s lip quivered. “How long will it be until they’re ready?”

The man gazed at the seeds, picking some of them and holding them in his hands. “I’d say, about … five years.”

“Five years?” the woman whispered, eyes wide.

The man nodded.

The woman pointed to the seeds. “So these aren’t good for anything?”

The man smiled. “Actually, they’re quite delicious roasted with butter and spices.”

“You want me to eat them?” the woman asked.

“You don’t have to,” the man said. “It’s just a thought.”

After that, the man went on his way, and the woman continued preparing her garden for winter.

Once inside, she roasted the seeds as the man had suggested. He was right: they were tasty prepared this way. As she ate them, the woman thought that five years wasn’t so long with such good food on her table and such a beautiful tree in her garden.

Even so, the next spring, the woman had a heavy heart as she went to clear the weeds and rocks and break up the soil in her garden. Where it had always been something she loved doing, now it was hard. She took many breaks, and thought often of leaving the work altogether. The only thing that kept her working was knowing that she needed to keep the ground ready for when the seeds were ready.

It wasn’t much, but it held the woman  until, at last, the spring of the fifth year came. With a thrill, she hurried out to her garden. This fall, the seeds in the cones would be ready, and next spring, she would plant them. Throughout the summer, she watched the cones eagerly. Finally, autumn came, and the cones began to fall, slowly at first, then all at once. Out the woman went to her garden with her bucket to gather them. She soon found that one bucket was not enough for all of the cones, and gathered bucket after bucket until not one cone was left on her garden floor.

As the snow fell that year, the woman went to work opening the cones, emptying the seeds onto her table, and sorting them into packets. She sorted and packaged so many seeds she thought she might need a bigger garden. She wondered what all of the seeds would grow up to be – would they all be trees? She would have to wait and see.

When she finished, leaving just a handful of seeds to roast, the woman stored the seeds in a warm, dry cupboard until spring. Then, as she swept up the remaining seeds from the table to put them in the roasting pan, one in particular caught her attention. It was small and dark, just like the one the man had given her to plant so many years ago.

Excited, the woman ran to get one more seed packet, thinking how lovely her garden would eventually be with two such trees. She paused: maybe someone else needed this seed, like she had all those years ago. And so, the woman decided not to plant it, but to set it aside and get it to someone who needed it, instead.

It seemed like no time at all passed until the woman was looking over her garden the following summer.  Now, instead of just the tree, flowers, plants, and small bushes populated the garden. There were blooms and bulbs and fruits and vegetables of all kinds forming almost everywhere. There were still some areas where there were no signs of anything growing, but the woman knew there would be someday.

“It’s a beautiful garden.”

The woman didn’t need to turn to know it was the man who had given her the seed.

She smiled as he came to stand at her side. “It took long enough for it to come together.”

“The strongest, most beautiful things need that time,” the man said.

The woman pulled a seed packet out of her pocket.

“What’s this?”

The woman pointed at the tree. “A seed. Thought you might come across someone who needs it.”

The man smiled. “Actually, I think you’ll come across someone who needs it.”

“When?”

The man winked. “Soon.”

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Last Night’s Dream

In the dream, I’m hiking a path I’ve hiked many times before, but I’m tired and it’s harder this time. A woman is hiking the same path several yards ahead of me, and she doesn’t seem to be having any trouble. The path gets narrower, and more overgrown, but I was expecting that. Suddenly, up ahead, there are trees cut down in the path, that have never been there before. Not particularly massive trees, but large enough to present formidable obstacles. I was not expecting that. Without making a conscious (or unconscious, since this is a dream) decision to be so, I’m on my hands and knees, knowing I’m pretty much defenseless against any force of nature that decides to take me on. I crawl towards the trees laying across the path. The woman ahead of me strides over them, head held high, and I wonder how she’s doing it, because by the time I reach them, I’m almost entirely flat on my stomach, doing an army crawl. As I pull myself up over the first tree in a sort of roll, I look up and there’s this balcony of sorts in the trees, and people are watching. They’re all telling me how much easier it would be if I was on my feet, like the woman who went through before me; and I know that, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t get back on my feet. And a little voice says, “You’ve just got to keep crawling.” I find I can do that, so that’s what I do. I pull and roll and army crawl over those trees in the path until eventually it’s just foliage again. The woman who was ahead of me is out of sight now, as is the balcony and the people in it. It’s just me and the path. I crawl on until I’m almost to the end of the path, and then, as suddenly as I was on my hands and knees, I find the strength to pull myself up and walk. I’m not particularly graceful, but I’m on my feet again, and I finish on my feet, but somehow … Somehow, I know if I had finished crawling, it would have been fine. I would have finished. But now I know that even with where I am on the path right now, I get back on my feet further down the line.

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Why I can’t make what I’m dealing with more digestible for you

I’ve done it my entire life.

I go through something, I handle it on my own, I process it, and then I present it to you in a neatly- and sometimes beautifully-wrapped package. After all, that’s the part people seem to be most interested in, you know? The happy, redeemed ending. The struggle – the blood, sweat, and tears – it took to get there? Not so much. I’ve found – through having been dropped – that most people can’t handle it. And so, you get the pretty package, and I am left with all of the things it took to make it that way. And now, I am drowning under all of the things it took to make it that way.

That’s on me, I know. It’s part fear, and it’s part pride. It’s the fear of being dropped (again), and it’s the pride of wanting to be seen a certain way (or rather, not wanting to be seen as a burden).

So, this week, certainly for the first time in a long time, and maybe for the first time in my life, I let you into the middle. I let you know that even though I know all of the “right” answers and arguments, they’re not making sense to me. I let you know that because of the laundry list of things that don’t make sense to me right now, I made the unorthodox move to focus strictly on Jesus for the time being, making Him the final authority on everything, including everything in the Bible. I let you know, knowing that every Christian I know would believe I’ve crossed a line that makes me susceptible to all sorts of spiritual attack and heresy. I let you know, knowing the consequences of being dropped and labeled, and being asked to either get in line or give up something I love.

Do you understand? I let you know. And I accept the consequences of letting you know, whatever they may be.

Because, as has been wisely said by so many, God is far more interested in doing something in me than doing something through me. Who I am is a bigger deal to God than what I do.

And God is not asking me to accept everything in the Bible right now. He’s asking me to focus on Jesus. I trust God’s leading in my life, whether you do or not. I trust God to make me right, however long it takes, and I will submit to however He chooses to do it.

You are officially invited into my journey, mess and all. You can drop me, you can label me, you can argue with me … Or, you can trust God to do His thing, and you can just be in this journey with me. Your choice.

But I can’t make my journey pretty or more digestible for you anymore.

 

#FindingGodChallenge: Week Two

#FindingGodChallenge Week Two. In which I share my verse (Matthew 28:20b), my song (Barlow Girl’s Never Alone), and how I wanted a breakout moment this week with God and didn’t get one. (Which is totally okay, because God is still with me.) What are YOUR responses?

 

The second challenge has also been issued: God Is My Healer. You know the drill – Bible verse, song, and moment with God from life.

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I’ve had to let something go…

I’ve had to let something go in order to keep my faith in Jesus.

I’m not referring to the things we normally talk about when we discuss following Jesus – you know, the works of the flesh or the sacrifices we have to make in carrying our crosses. I’ve had to let go of something far more orthodox – that is, something most Christians consider fundamental to following Jesus and their faith in Him.

But as I’ve dealt with certain doubts since my preteen years, and as these doubts have escalated to critical levels this year, this thing could not be less fundamental to my faith in Jesus as Savior from sin and the way to the Heavenly Father. In fact, as things have boiled down, I’ve discovered I can either have faith in this one tenet and let Jesus go, or I can have faith in Jesus and let this one tenet go, but I will not be able to hang on to both.

And since Jesus is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and this particular tenet – well, it’s been one of the worst, I’m going to stick with Jesus.

I’m breaking the rules, I know. It’s supposed to be all or nothing, I know. I’ve seen individual faiths crumble because people thought they had to believe both, or neither, okay? Because in a situation where people are forced to choose both or neither, they inevitably choose neither. I’ve decided that’s not going to be my story, so I’m going take Jesus, and leave the rest.

I believe God can be entirely known through Jesus, and Jesus alone, because Jesus is God. I believe absolutely everything must be filtered through Jesus, because Jesus is the Word of God – if it stands in Him, it stands, if it falls in Him, it falls. Jesus is my final authority.

Which is, as a Christian (literal meaning, “little Christ”), exactly as it should be, in my opinion. (Again, orthodox Christianity disagrees with me.)

So, yes, I’ve had to let something go in order to keep my faith in Jesus. And, yes, I know it puts me at odds with most people I know. And talking about it publicly?

I’ll probably get multiple calls from multiple people.

I’ll probably get called multiple names by multiple people.

Multiple people are probably going to lose all respect for me, because their respect for me has been on the basis of my grasp of this one tenet.

I’m probably not going to be allowed to minister in certain capacities.

If I don’t fall in with orthodoxy, I’m probably going to be treated a certain way by the Church.

But I’m not going to pretend – not for my own comfort, and not for anyone else’s – and I can certainly handle what comes as a result.

Oh, yes, I’ve let something go in order to keep my faith in Jesus.

And I’m not ashamed or afraid, because I’ve kept the most important thing: Jesus.

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On Being a People

Seth decided to hold auditions. It doesn’t matter for what – my nieces were crazy about the idea. He told them to have their people get in touch with his people to set up the audition, or that his people would be in touch with theirs, or something along the lines of people being in touch with people. One of my nieces promptly declared me her people, and I was swept up in a world of pretend phone calls and scheduling with my younger brother’s people, another niece.

In the course of playing, somehow, what I do for a living came up. As I explained my job as a secretary/administrative assistant and how I basically take care of the little things for the team I work with, one of my nieces exclaimed, “You’re a people in real life! That’s so cool!”

Normally, I might have had a positive reaction to her enthusiasm, but instead I resentfully noted it was much cooler to have people than to be people, because frankly, I was tired of being a people. I was coming off several weeks of having responsibilities added to my plate simply because they were things no one else wanted to do and hey, I was there.

I think they call it grunt work, and the thing about grunt work is … I’m very good at it. I’m very good at doing the things no one else wants to do – things like organizing paperwork, filling out payment receipt slips and accounting logs, talking to customers who are upset because they’re not getting answers, persisting in getting answers for those customers, coordinating between the teams I work with to resolve internal issues before they become external issues, calling external partners to get necessary information, greeting and directing and distributing calls and customers and messages and mail, hauling boxes out to the recycle bin, mopping up the floor when the ceiling is leaky, being the dictionary and writers’ manual… I’m very good at grunt work because I’m willing to do it – even when I’m not particularly sure what I’m doing, because I figure I’ll learn something new along the way. (And I can’t think of a time when I haven’t learned something new when given a new challenge.)

Normally, I enjoy being a people – I enjoy being the girl who knows what’s up because she’s involved in all of it – but … sometimes, I feel like a dumping ground. I feel like I have no value as an employee outside of my willingness to do whatever needs to be done, like my value is entirely locked up in what I accomplish for others.

And I wonder – I wonder if I will ever accomplish anything myself, or if I will always be a people. I wonder if I will ever do meaningful things, or if I will always be freeing up others to do them. I wonder if all of this wondering means it’s time to make some changes in my life, or if I just need to ride this season out until I enjoy being a people again.

It doesn’t matter. Right now, I am a people. And since I’m in it, I have the grace for it. I have the grace to be for others what I may never be or have for myself. I have the grace to be a people.

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#FindingGodChallenge: Introduction

The first #FindingGodChallenge has been issued: find a Bible verse, a song, and a moment with God from your life that show God is with you and meet back here next week to discuss!

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Seven years ago, I got dropped.

All I needed was some assurance – a smile, a “hey”, a hug (even though I really wasn’t a hugging person at the time) – you know? Something, anything, to let me know it wasn’t going to change things.

Instead, I got dropped.

And I’m not going to tell you I fought to stick with the people who dropped me, because I didn’t. At least, not initially. And I accept full responsibility for that.

But I still got dropped.

And in the time since, I’ve been dropped so many times I’ve lost count. Not as drastically, but dropped all the same. Shown my absolute insignificance in others’ lives time and time and time again.

And I have learned – I have learned – not to put myself in a position where I will be dropped.

I don’t need to hear how cynical that is. I know my own heart, and believe me, I already know how cynical I am. I am also intimately acquainted with the awful circumstances that made me want to be this way, that made me believe this is the better way.

I’d rather not talk to people about what’s in my heart, overburden them, and have them drop me because it’s too much. I’d rather not come to depend on people, step out of line, and have them drop me because I’m a troublemaker. I’d rather not spend time with people, and when life changes, have them drop me because I’m not a priority.

I’d rather not be dropped.

So I have – in the past seven years – developed a friendship with the One Person who will not drop me. The One Person who can hear not just what is happening, but how I feel about what is happening, and it is never too much. The One Person who can hear my doubts and my questions and my flat-out rejections, and doesn’t insist that I fall in with hard and fast lines. The One Person for Whom nothing ever changes, and to Whom I am always significant.

This past week, I have heard a number of times just how bad I am at relationships. Thing is, I wasn’t always. But I got dropped. And dropped. And dropped some more. And I got tired of being dropped, so I stopped putting myself in that position. I can honestly say, the way I’ve been living my life, I won’t get dropped.

But God has talked to me about the Redwoods. For as tall as the Redwoods are, their roots aren’t very deep. Instead, their roots are interconnected – a root network, if you will.

And I am trying to unlearn the way I relate to people, but … it’s going to take time. And if you’re ever losing patience with it, try to remember where I’m coming from.

I’ve been dropped. The only thing I have known to do is pick myself up, pull myself together, and carry on without people. Most of the time, I genuinely don’t know how anyone can help. To be honest, I’d be perfectly content hacking it out – my Heavenly Father and I – the rest of my life, but God is gently calling and helping me towards more.

I’m going to take this journey at God’s pace. He’s being gentle, I’m going to be gentle with myself. He’s not rushing me, I’m not going to rush myself. And if God can do that for me, and I can do that for myself, y’all can, too.

 

This has been my view the past week…

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We drove through Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, before we ended up in our beautiful home state, Michigan.

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We took selfies…

13882552_10100530254734007_3889273194689678793_n And we hung out on the beach…

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I even did my devotions on the beach one night while the sun set.

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I even let three of my nieces give me a pedicure.

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But…

I’m back home now, though, and in the full swing of things. Blah.

The view is not so great, but I’m trying to make the most of it.

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