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.”
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.”
“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.
“Do you keep weeds and rocks away from the seeds?”
“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
“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.
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.”
The man winked. “Soon.”
“Booktrope will be ceasing business effective May 31, 2016. …Much has been accomplished by Booktrope and our community over the past six years. But even with a collection of excellent books and with very strong contributions by creative teams who’ve provided editing, design and marketing services, Booktrope books have not generated sufficient revenues to make the business viable.”
This was the thump from the other shoe dropping for which I have been waiting. Turns out it wasn’t a one-legged man upstairs after all. Not that I ever really entertained the idea that it could be a one-legged man. Over the past few months, I have witnessed too many things at Booktrope that made no business sense to me, unless – unless an announcement like this was coming.
Of course, businesses fail every day, and when they do, everyone – from the top to the bottom – loses. Booktrope was built not only on the investments of its leadership, but on the contributions of authors, editors, designers, proofreaders, marketing managers, and many, many others, believing that if we only put in enough effort, this business model could succeed. In the end, it didn’t matter how much was put into it, the model was simply not viable. A lot went into it, and not enough came out.
The problem is – and where emotions are running high – we were often told (especially as authors and marketing managers) that we simply needed to put more into it to be successful. The problem is, we were often made to feel that we were the ones not working, when in fact, the system was what didn’t work. The problem is, we were told it takes time to build a readership, and we found out quite abruptly, that we will not be given the time we need.
There was a time when I sunk every waking moment, every ounce of energy into the Booktrope model. I believed in my authors and there books, and I believed what Booktrope told me about what it took to succeed within their model. In February, as I began to realize the depth of what was happening, I remembered a conversation I had with my dad that I shared with a few friends:
Last June, as I was pouring myself into work that I loved, my Dad asked me some questions about it. Like, how many hours I was spending on it, and what the return on it was, and what progress was I making on my own writing.
And you know how I knew something was wrong? I lied. I told him I was spending about 20 hours a week on it, when I was spending close to 60 – no, some days, every. waking. moment. I couldn’t have lied about the return even if I wanted to, for reasons I won‘t go into. I lied and said my second book was coming along well even though I hadn’t touched it in at least three months.
Why did I lie? I loved what I was doing, and I didn’t want him telling me what a terrible investment of my time and talents it was.
But you know something? He told me anyway. He told me there was absolutely nothing protecting me from anybody up and walking away after I’d given everything I had.
My dad knew I was working and the system wasn’t, even then, but I wasn’t prepared to confront that reality.
It wasn’t until two days before The Field‘s release, as I surveyed my launch campaign that I realized the striving and grasping and sinking everything I had into my platform wasn’t working and was not going to work for me.
So this morning at church my pastor was talking about God sending laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9), and how the word “send” actually means to force out.
This whole author thing? It requires a hefty amount of kingdom-building. I’m not talking about world-building, which is really the setting and climate of a story; in fact, I’m not talking about writing at all, but about the business we call marketing. In the publishing world, authors are the brand and their books are the product, and authors are expected to establish their brand. Hypothetically, trust of the brand (or a relationship with it) produces sales. Experts estimate that it takes authors about five books to solidify their enough that it will begin to sell itself. In the meantime, authors are out on social media and in coffee houses making new friends, and hoping that by being engaging and interesting, people will be prompted to check out themselves and their books.
As I gear up for my launch, I’ve been extra busy with the usual – writing, scheduling, and interacting – and I find that this is not what I am supposed to be doing anymore, at least, not at this level. I am actually starting to hate the marketing side of things.
I knew – I knew I needed to give up my online platform. But. I was bound to continue building my platform instead because of my contract with Booktrope. At the end of January, things changed enough within the system that I no longer felt obligated to build my platform anymore, but I still felt there were things I needed to do to make sure the people who contributed to The Field‘s Booktrope launch received their worth. I kept up with that through March, but then I felt a release from that, too, like God was saying, “Okay, you’ve done what I’ve asked you to do. I need you to step back and let me take care of your team now.” That’s when I decided to give up the Lydia Thomas, Author platform, and pursue other marketing options instead.
I think of what my pastor said that first Sunday in October about God sometimes forcing us out, and I know that’s exactly what has happened to me here.
Things have to be different going forward, because that’s what God is sending me towards.
So, no more platform. And after May 31, The Field is going away, too, so if you’ve wanted a copy, this month is literally your last opportunity. I need to focus on other projects – projects that will be available free of charge (which I believe will alleviate any pressure to get myself out there) – and yet another launch for The Field is simply not an option. (Much as I would like it to be so my team could continue to be paid.)
If you still want to hang out, I’ll be back blogging at Wilderness Adventure. Already am, actually. Wilderness Adventure is more of an anything goes venue, and it’s focus is not about what people want to read or expect to hear from me or even making things more digestible, but what I want to write.
Thanks for spending the past two years with me. It was a good run.
Ladies and gents, today I’d like to share my friend, author and youth pastor Tabitha Caplinger, with you. She’s a treasure trove of wisdom, and today she’s sharing about a snippet from her devotional, Daughters Arise, about stepping out in faith.
November of last year I released my first novel, The Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline. Alongside it I published a companion devotional, Daughters Arise. My hope was that beyond writing a story that would entertain I could offer glimpses of my faith and the hope we have in Christ. I want young women to understand their worth and purpose. To that end I took small moments in the lives of my fictional characters to highlight lessons we can use to live chosen ourselves. Below is an excerpt from Daughters Arise.
“I know it’s hard, but I need you to trust me on this one. I wouldn’t make you move right now if I didn’t believe it was the right thing.” Claire calmly patted the sofa next to her.
Zoe studied the empty spot next to Claire with squinty eyes before walking over and plopping down next to her aunt, anger melting under another round of hot tears.
“I’m scared.” She stared down at her fingers, picking at chipped nail polish.
“Of a new place? Making new friends?”
Zoe let out an imprisoned breath. “That moving means leaving them behind.” Her eyes reached Claire’s, more tears hanging on the edge. She bit her bottom lip in a failed effort to quell them.
“Aww, Zo. This is just a place. An important one for sure, but just a place.” Claire wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close, letting her head rest against Zoe’s. “The memories can be taken anywhere.” (Excerpt from The Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline)
God has chosen you. You are not the consolation prize to Him dying on the cross. You were never the default option. No, God in all His omniscience, His eternal knowledge, chose you. He saw you, where you are, exactly like you are and made a very conscious decision to love you.
Don’t believe me?
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
John 15:16 ESV
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Jeremiah 1:5 ESV
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
And He didn’t just choose you, He chose you for a purpose. He has plans for you. Good plans. Great plans. Plans that are better then even the best plans you can dream up. And He wants to get you to that place, to those plans, more than you want to get to them. It’s easy right? Or maybe it’s not. Why? If God has chosen us, made great plans for us, and wants to see us succeed in them then why isn’t it easy?
Because we make it hard.
Maybe we don’t believe God really loves us. Maybe we don’t trust enough in the character of God to believe that His plan is the best plan. Maybe we think we know better. Maybe we are just afraid.
Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of what we are leaving behind. Afraid we will fail.
In the opening book excerpt we see a young girl who is afraid of what is to come. She is afraid of forgetting where she came from, who she is. What she doesn’t know is that what is coming will show her who she really is and she won’t have to forget where she came from, because that will be the foundation for everything. It is the same with us. We follow, we step out in faith and God reveals the real us. The one He sees behind the fear and facades. And He uses our past, good or bad, to propel us forward; the Great Revealer and Great Redeemer.
Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Faith is scary. It can be risky because we don’t always see the outcome of that first step. We want it all mapped out for us with all the details given and questions answered. It doesn’t work that way. Because while God has chosen you for a purpose He loves you just for you. And the person you are is more important to God then the things you will do. He knows that we grow and learn with each step we take, especially when we have to choose to take it in faith rather than bowing to fear.
How do we step out in faith?
We get to know who we are following. When you spend time with Jesus, really getting to know who He is. Not the surface Sunday School stories but the deep layers of His character, then we can really trust Him. And when we can trust Him because we have learned His promises and seen His faithfulness and felt His unending love, we need not fear His plans. Knowing God means knowing that He really does know best and even when I don’t have all the details I can follow His path, His plan.
Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG
Trust God from the bottom of your heart, don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go, he’s the one who will keep you on track.
The best part of all of this is while you are drawing closer to God, while you are growing in your faith and maturity, you are also getting ever closer to the abundant, joyful, successful, life that He dreamed up for you in the very beginning. Remember…
You are chosen. You are safe. You are loved.
Tabitha Caplinger has been in student ministry for close to 15 years, and currently pastors at Faith Community Church in House Springs, Missouri with her husband Brian. They have two sassy daughters, Lila and Rory. Student Ministry is core to who Tabitha is; she loves discipling others and helping them see themselves through Jesus’ eyes. Her goal is for every young woman to be confident that, “she is loved more than she will ever know by someone who died to know her.”
When not working, Tabitha and her family like taking in a good movie or walking through the park. She also admits to being a little obsessed with TV.
Connect with Tabitha online:
Facebook: Tabitha Caplinger
Visit Tabitha Caplinger on Goodreads
Lydia Thomas Author is going away.
I don’t mean that I’m going to stop writing, I’m just … de-branding myself.
I’ve been in the branding myself business for about two years now, filtering myself into my online writing through a select range of topics and hooks to cultivate a following. It’s been working: slowly, but surely, my platform has grown. As I’ve connected with people, some have bought my book, which is, I’m told, what this business is all about.
Except. It’s not working for me.
I’m a person, not a brand. And while many people can be both, I’ve found I’m too fluid. Too fluid to make a distinction between who I am and what I promote, and too fluid to pick and choose parts of myself – to say nothing of bits and pieces from others – to promote. It’s exhausting – feeling like you have to say something when an issue falls under the umbrella of your brand or feeling like you can’t when it doesn’t.
Then there’s the marketing side. Having to stay abreast of what people want to see in their newsfeeds (posts with images), when posts are most visible (1p-4p EST on Facebook), how long they want the posts they’re reading to be (1,000-1,500 words on a blog), and all of the things it takes to get your blog posts to show up on Google (linking to other posts), just to name a few. It’s a constant fight against algorithms and statistics, and it gets to the point where numbers and how to fight them are all you can see. And all the other authors in your circles can see.
And so I’ve decided – I’ve decided I’m more than funnelling and filtering myself to win a fight against numbers that fluctuate with ever-changing tastes. I’m doing away with branding. And marketing.
I’ll be deleting my public Facebook, Google+, and Twitter pages at the end of this month. The Lydia Thomas Author blog will stay up, but after the end of this month, I will return to blogging on my personal blog, Wilderness Adventure.
The Field is still available through Booktrope, and I will be investing in traditional advertising to help its circulation, in the hopes that my team (editor, proofreader, cover designer, and project manager) see a return on THEIR investments. Going forward, however, I will publish my books independently and they will be free of charge, like the Small, But Wise curriculum – relieving any pressure I feel to be “out there.”
I’m relieved and delighted to be getting away from the branding and marketing and back to … what life was before I had a book that needed to be “out there.”
Just Lydia. ❤
Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Legend has it that the expression has its roots in tenement style living, where people would hear their upstairs neighbors kick off one shoe and – you guessed it – wait for the other shoe to drop (Wiktionary).
And I’ve decided – I’ve decided it’s the very worst kind of waiting. After all, you know it’s coming – that other shoe dropping. You already know the thud you’re going to hear and the slight wince you’ll make at the sound. You just don’t know when it’s going to happen, because maybe your upstairs neighbor kicks off both shoes right away, or maybe he likes to mess with you, or maybe he just got distracted. The point is – it’s going to happen.
Metaphorically-speaking, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for a month-and-a-half now, maybe even closer to two months. I expect to hear it any time now. It makes me anxious, and I don’t know why, because I know exactly what to expect and I’ve already made up my mind how I’m going to handle it. It’s the tension, I suppose.
And that tension is why it’s a popular saying. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I’ve been in this school a long time. Different circumstances, but the same overarching theme: the pull between what is right now and what is going to be. And what I’ve learned is that you have to put that other shoe dropping – however inevitable – is that you press through the tension of not knowing when by engaging with what is. That’s not to say you have to deny what’s going to happen, or that you shouldn’t make a plan for what’s going to happen. The point is – you can’t make it happen.
And when the shoe drops, you’re ready.
And you’re relieved, because the tension is broken.
Until then, though, you have to ride it out. Adapt. Re-adapt.