Tag Archives: Christianity

When God Wants to Give You More Than a Jump

My car battery died. It was over five years old, so when the single-digit temperatures hit Oklahoma this past weekend, they sapped out what little life was left in the battery. (Rest in peace, little buddy.)

My older brother, who happens to be a school bus mechanic, kept insisting that I needed a new battery, which was all well and good, but seriously, all I wanted was a jump. I figured I could go to Wal-Mart, get one of those little jump boxes, and be in a position to jump myself. You know, until I could get the money together for a battery.

And I totally would have made that work.

As God worked it out, I received a Christmas bonus at work yesterday, and so I had the money for a new battery before I even got the jumpstart for which I was about willing to give my firstborn.

After my car was back up and running yesterday evening, my mom said something profound. (I don’t think she meant it to be profound, but sometimes the things people say just hit me, you know?) She said, “The cold tends to bring those kinds of things to light.”

The cold tends to bring those kinds of things to light.

There are certain things that only certain circumstances can bring about.

Cold temperatures will completely drain an old battery and reveal not only the need for power, but the need for a replacement of the old source of power with a completely new one, because no battery was made to last forever.

This morning, a coworker who helped me with my car told me, “That battery had probably been going little bit by little bit for a long time.”

See, I am the patron saint of lost causes, and I believe in my core that if I just do my part, I can infuse dying things with new life. And for a while, I can. For a while, I guess I’m probably meant to, for as long as I’m given the grace. Sometimes, I strive beyond the grace I’ve been given, and that’s when God sends the cold – to show me I’m holding a dead thing, to show me it’s time for a new thing.

Oh, yes. The cold tends to bring those kinds of things to light.

“And everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (Ephesians 5:13b NIV).

In this coming season – the season that is now here – the dead things are going to burn up. All of the things I’ve poured my life into that are no longer living, they’re going to catch fire and be consumed. And the light from that fire is going to be a beacon until the sun rises.

And the sun will rise.

The darkness cannot conquer the light.

Death cannot conquer life.

Light and life are not as peaceful as one might imagine, for darkness and death will not be defeated without a brutal battle. The dawn is not silent, for the light and life it brings have fought to be there, and they raise a victory cry. The holiness, the sacredness there is not silent, is not still, is not settled. It is exuberant, vibrant, powerful.

Yes, light and life are unparalleled in power. The majesty of a sunrise is found in its having been through and gained victory over the night. The victory of light and life is known only by those who fight through the night.

There are certain things that only certain circumstances can bring about.

 

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Seeking Justice, Loving Mercy

“There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground” (Amos 5:7 NIV).

“There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth” (Amos 5:10 NIV).

“There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts” (Amos 5:12 NIV).

“You have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness” (Amos 6:12 NIV).

Two times, Amos was given visions of Israel’s destruction. Two times, Amos interceded with God on behalf of Israel. Two times, God relented.

After a third vision, God says, “I will spare [my people Israel] no longer.” And this time, Amos doesn’t intercede, because a prophet can’t carry a burden that God lifts.

I couldn’t intercede in what happened today, try though I did. I’ve spent the past few months crying out to God for justice in this situation. I’ve spent the past month pursuing an opportunity for justice in this situation. I’ve refused to participate in injustice against myself.

I paid for all of it.

I processed all of it.

I interceded for the people involved through all of it.

I let all of it go. To God. I let all of it go to God.

And that’s important. Because if had been entirely up to me, what happened today wouldn’t have happened.

But I am not my own. I belong to Someone Else. I am fiercely loved and jealously protected. These things are never entirely up to me.

I thought I would be displeased by what happened today. Instead, I feel the love, the protection, the vindication. The fierceness of all of it.

I feel best knowing that even though what happened today had to happen, you are in merciful hands, and if you lean in, all good things will be yours.

Lean in.

Lean in.

Lean in.

As someone reminded me last week, you harvest what you plant.

“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24 NIV).

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him and He will do this; He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:5-6 NIV).

 

 

 

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Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.   In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’  For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,   yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.   And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?   I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 NRSV)

Two days ago, I asked God, “What if I ask for this, and nothing happens? What if nobody cares?” He reminded me of the story above. So I asked. Now I wait.

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I had an intense night last night.

I came to at about one in the morning, though from what, I’m not really sure. I had just rolled over onto my back in bed, my room the normal amount of light from the floods outside my apartment. It was quiet, except for the ceiling fan thumping around and a plastic trash bag rustling from my bedroom door handle.

Nothing out of the ordinary, except … this wasn’t how things were just moments ago.

It started out with a nightmare – being chased down the halls of my subconscious by some demon. Then, I was sitting in a therapist’s office with my parents and the therapist was telling me that this demon was me and that I needed to look in the mirror and own it. I knew the demon wasn’t me, but I looked in the mirror on the therapist’s wall anyhow, and there was the demon. It rushed out at me and into me and started speaking for me. I knew it was a nightmare, knew no such thing could happen in real life. I willed myself to open my eyes.

My bedroom was dark, and in my periphery, above me, smoke-like wraiths were circling and swooping in at me, but unlike my dream, they couldn’t get in me, or touch me at all. I knew they were demons, and I started rebuking them and telling them to leave in Jesus’ name. I thought I was yelling, but I couldn’t hear myself, thought I was raising my hands in prayer, but then I couldn’t move. They wouldn’t leave. I was terrified. Eventually, it was all I could do to just call out Jesus’ name.

I rolled over onto my back, and suddenly, everything was back to normal. They were gone. I felt free, weightless, rested.

Well done.

Those two words and I knew: what had just happened had been real. Whether it occurred in the physical realm or on a spiritual plane, I really can’t say – but I can tell you that I was involved in intense spiritual warfare shortly before one this morning, and I was on the side that won.

The plastic trash bag on my door handle rustled, and a shiver ran through me. This time I call out for Jesus and I can hear myself.

I fell asleep after I prayed for God’s protection over my loved ones and I and after once again rebuking the enemy in our lives.

All I can say is this, when prayer starts turning the tide, the enemy gets scared. Right now, I am praying certain things because I know beyond the shadow of any doubt, God wants to do them. God has worked in me “to will and to do His good pleasure.” I am praying these in spite of personal failure, fear, and pain. And because I refuse to surrender, I have a target on my back. But you know what? I’m on the winning side: “You are of God, little children. Greater is the One who is in you, than he who is in the world.”

 

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Our Broken World and the One Thing We All Seem to Be Forgetting

“It’s 2016. How are we not past this?”

Do you know what I mean? This is the Digital Age! Information at our fingertips! We should know better. And when we know better, we should do better. It was one thing when we were cave-dwellers, grunting and beating our chests, right? It was one thing in the 15th century when we didn’t have Freud to analyze our fear of other, right? It was one thing in the American South when we actually believed we were benevolent, taking people away from their families and homes, because we were giving them a better life, right? It was one thing in the sixties when the new ideology clashed with traditional and created a turbulent time, right? But now? In 2016? We should be past this. I mean, we’ve had billions of years to evolve. Billions of years of history and experience. At this point, this should pretty much fix itself, right?

But somehow, racism persists. Human trafficking persists. Sexism persists. Poverty persists. Abuse persists. The idea that one group knows what’s better for another group persists. The raping, pillaging, and plundering of creation persists.  And somehow, the leading presidential candidates in the United States are a man who whines about anything that goes against him like he’s a five-year-old and a woman who has built her career hiding things. (Not that there aren’t other choices, but they are what the majority of our nation has chosen.) Somehow, this isn’t fixed yet.

How? How are we not past this?

I believe – no, I know the human race cannot fix our own issues. That much is clear from a history of repetitive and increasingly pervasive mistakes. Or it should be, but somehow, in spite of our proven track record, we still cling to the idea that we can and will fix ourselves – if we just put the right officials in office in November, if we just talk enough and do enough about the issues, if we can just get everyone else to see things the way we do,… well, you get the idea. But it’s still not enough, because there is always something (usually in the form of someone else) standing in our way. Other people are always the problem, and we are always the solution.

This tells me we need something other and infinitely greater than ourselves to make things right. An outside force greater than the sum of our parts.

I may not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, may not always have the best relationship with the Church, but let me tell you, I believe in Jesus.  Jesus is the Only One able to make our wrongs right by restoring our relationship with the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit. Living in harmony with God is the only way we can live in harmony with everything He made.

We cannot hope to do this ourselves, okay? We have failed ourselves, history shows, and let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking we haven’t. Let’s not let the enemy deceive us into thinking we’re doing pretty good on our own.

It’s time to look to Jesus. Time to surrender our independence from God, to surrender our independence in trying to be God. Time to recognize our need for Him, our inability without Him. Time to let God be God, and to just delight in being the created, which is all He has ever asked of the human race.

For those of us who already believe in Him, it’s time to talk more about Jesus. Time to show a hurting world that Jesus is the Only One who makes wrong things right, the Only One who can show us the Heavenly Father. Time to prove He’s the Living God by letting His Life live in us. Time to stop talking about what we can do, and start talking more about what He can do.

“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.   I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.  Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:15-20 NRSV).

 

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You’re on your own, kid.

Maybe it’s terra incognita. Maybe I’m being called to trailblaze a path for which most people don’t even see a need, and by the time they do see it, the path will be there, and they’ll just take it for granted, like it always was there. And maybe I’m being called, not because I’m particularly courageous and tenacious and graceful, but because I’m the only one willing to go there right now, and maybe – just maybe – it has to be right now.

Maybe I am on my own, humanly-speaking. Maybe it’s just going to be God and I, hacking it out together, like we have with countless other situations. Maybe that’s how it has to be, because maybe – just maybe – God needs this path to be a certain way.

Maybe it won’t be so bad.

But, just once, I would like to go where all of humanity has gone before.

Sigh.

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#FindingGodChallenge Week Four: God Is My Life-Giver

Here is this week’s Bible verse, song, and (16-minute!!!) testimony for God as my Life-Giver this week. Next week? God is Love.

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Dear Newborn (Christian) Lydia

Dear Newborn Christian Lydia,

Well, this is it: your eighth anniversary of following Jesus, probably almost to the exact day. Eight years ago, someone who cared about asked you about your relationship with God, and you told the truth. Because eight years ago, you were tired of the ruthless cycle of sin, guilt, and shame, and trying to make it all better on your own; tired of pretending to be someone you were not, of trying to feel things you didn’t feel, and believe things you didn’t believe. Eight years ago, you were simultaneously set free and wrecked with these simple words, by this simple concept: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1) – by a God who knows you, loves you, and calls you by your name in spite of the tremendous mess that you are. And eight years ago, you were undeniably and irrevocably changed.

In honor of eight years following Jesus, I want to share eight things you will learn in the coming weeks, months, and years. I know, I know: if you could be here in all of your nineteen-year-old glory, you would scoff. After all, writing letters to your younger self really doesn’t do any good – it’s not going to change anything. And you’re partly right: it’s not going to change anything … for us. But maybe – just maybe – it will change something for someone else. Even if it doesn’t, it’s good to remind myself.

So without further ado, here are the eight things I wish somebody would have told you about following Jesus.

You will be depressed – even suicidal – again. I know it’s hard to imagine, in the sheer elation of freedom you’re feeling right now – in the newness, that you will ever feel that bad again, but … you will. It’s going to take a wrecking ball to your philosophy that depression is spiritual or even something emotional that can be overcome if you only put your mind to it, and you’re eventually going accept that your depression is physiological, a special inherited brand, and that you have to treat it like any other sickness. You’ll realize that even times when you feel really good are a part of your disease, and you’ll get to a place where you distrust those times as much as the low points. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll learn to depend more on God to lead you in what to do than how you’re feeling on any given day. It’s still isolating, this disease, and though you’ll cry out for it to go away many times, you’ll learn to carry it with a clumsy sort of grace.

You will date non-Christian guys again. Look, I know you’re still devastated about that boy you were seeing behind Dad and Mom’s back. I know you think you would have avoided heartbreak if you had just followed their rules for boys. I know that in the next several years, this devastation will lead you to make a number of lists, and that must follow Jesus will top each one. So I know you’re not going to be happy with me about this. Here’s the thing: even now, there’s a guy entering your life quietly, and he’s following Jesus. You won’t notice him for a few months, because you’re still healing, but when you do finally notice him, you’re not going to have eyes for any other guy for years. But even now – for the past year, really – a situation has been entering your life quietly, and it’s going to make this guy impossible to have. After a series of sizeable mistakes on your part, you’re going to read Captivating and you’re going to make it right, but Lydia, this situation is too big for him, and absolutely nothing you do is going to change that. Once you realize that, you’ll get over him, and you’ll be okay for a while. For a while. Then, you’re going to get seriously pissed off, because you made effort upon effort, you made so much room for him, and he couldn’t be bothered to match that. You get jaded about Christian guys, always expecting you to make way for them, to serve them, to be less so they can be more, and you find non-Christian guys generally respect and support your womanhood and independence. Non-Christian guys, of course, would like you to be less Christian, and you learn you can’t be less of that, either, so I think it’s safe to say you’ll quite likely be single for the rest of your life, and you’ll generally be okay with that because more than anything, you just want to be who you were created to be. Still, you’ll be more comfortable cultivating friendships with guys outside of the Church than those within it. (Sorry, kid.)

You’re going to learn that forgiveness is not forgetting, nor is it the absence of pain. Leading up to this life-changing moment, you’ve … had some bad things done to you. And because of something a Bible camp counselor said to you after you shared some things with her when you were thirteen, you’re going to think remembrance and pain are equal to bitterness, and you’re going to do your level best to forget and not feel a damn thing. You’ll hear in counseling in a few years that forgiving is neither forgetting nor the absence of pain, because remembrance and feelings are not choices. After a series of scandals within the homeschool community, you’ll work through a shit ton of anger, and you’ll learn that forgiveness is merely to release the person who hurt you and not let them dictate how you operate going forward. And even though you’ll know all of this in your head, it’s still working its way to your heart.

You’ve got an idea of how things should be, and that’s not how they’re going to be. You may not realize this yet, Lydia, because the people who’ve known you the longest say you’re negative, but … you’re an optimist. You still believe that by going to college and getting your degree, you’ll have a glamorous and high-powered career as a film executive. You still believe you’ll work for a few years, meet the man of your dreams (who is a movie director you met on the set of a film you produced), and be married at twenty-five, after which you’ll adopt a brood of children who will be extremely well-adjusted because you’ll be their mother, and you’re going to be a brilliant mother. The man of your dreams will change first, as you enter your most golden era with the Church (which you won’t think is golden while you’re in it, because you are focused on all of the wrong things, but trust me,…), and he looks like – well, you’ll know soon enough who he looks like. In your coursework in college, you’ll discover you’re better suited to live television production than to anything in film, and upon graduation, you’ll discover you can’t live off part-time production assistant gigs (you know, to get your foot in the door, because you didn’t really expect to start off at the top … or maybe you did). So you’ll do what you did all the way through college: you work hard, two – sometimes, three – jobs. As for marriage, you discover you have other goals – moving to Seattle and writing, for instance. Again and again, what relationships you have will unravel, because people and situations are not who and what you would like them to be. It will be several years before it sinks in that you are the one who needs to operate differently – not in losing your natural optimism or vision, but in saving unrealistic expectations for your fiction writing, and remembering that neither the world nor the Church fit a neat narrative structure. And eventually, you will understand that you were not cut out for some of the things you want for yourself now, and you’ll be grateful many of them didn’t happen.

You are being grown to last and produce things of lasting value, and that takes time. This is why you can’t give up your optimism and vision: you are being grown into something great. And, Lydia, that takes time. It will take time for you to understand that it takes time, and that’s when it really begins, you know? You are still hearing Dad say you take the easy way out and you still don’t understand because he still hasn’t explained that given two options, you choose the easier one. You still don’t see what you’re missing when you choose the easier. And you won’t fully for a long time – I don’t know if I fully understand yet – but sometimes, you will get glimpses. You will learn the patience and faith to wait, to see things through, because you will not know what all of this will grow into, but for the first time in your life, you will want to know what it can be if you just let it.

Don’t try and force significance. There are no small things. As you turn twenty-five, you will go through a period of mourning that you haven’t done anything significant with your life – because of those unrealistic expectations and impatience. And you will try to force it many times by having something to offer, usually by way of your writing and doctrinal prowess. You will learn you are significant, not because of what you do, but by reason of having been created in the image of God. You will learn it is less about what you do, and more about how you do it. There are things that you will do that will feel so mundane and meaningless because you don’t even have to think about them, but they will mean the world to someone else. People will not care that you are a writer, or what you know about T.U.L.I.P.; they will care that you relate to them in ways that mean something to them.

It’s okay to pray for what you want. This thing that’s been coming into your life? This thing that will come to rest and overshadow much of the next several years? You will pray what you think you should pray, not what you want to pray. For three years, you will pray that way before you give up because you will no longer have any personal investment in the matter. Finally, one December, you’ll be reading in John, and you’ll hear Jesus say, “Whatever you ask the Father in My Name, I will do,” and you’ll throw your hands up and cry, “I have asked. For three years, I have asked.” God will ask you, “When?” and you’ll think about it and realize … you have not, actually, ever asked for what you really want in this situation. And you will, and what you want will transform. You will learn to trust God so much more simply by being totally honest with Him; You will learn that He wants to give you good things, and just how gentle He is in transforming you when you ask for things that aren’t right for you.

Grace. You will learn that God is good, and He will give you everything you need for everything you are supposed to be. You will learn that grasping and clawing in your spirit is a sign you are trying to be something you are not supposed to be, trying to get something you are not supposed to have, trying not to be something you are supposed to be, trying to block something you are supposed to have – a lack of grace, if you will. You will learn that when God wants you to be someone, He will get you there, and Lydia, He does not need your help. When He wants anyone to be someone! And you will realize that you have missed so much grace in your grasping and clawing and pushing and shoving – the grace to let Him be God and to just be His child, to grow in His time and even yours (because, Lydia, He knows what is going to take you time before you do), to let things and people be, to know He’s got your back so you don’t have to have your own back, to be yourself confidently. You will always be learning this.

You probably think I’m a serious buzzkill, even sounding like Dad and Mom in places, but in these early days, you’re so much like a marsh reed, you know? Blown every which way, by every which thing. If I could go back and have a conversation with you – eight years ago, on this day – I’d want to tell you how to stand stronger. Then again, you probably wouldn’t listen: you have a tendency to want to figure these things out on your own. (Oh, well. I tried.)

As to the future, all I know is you will be following Jesus the rest of your life. And it’s going to be great.

 

 

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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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