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.”

When Spit Goes to Help in a Handbrake

“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.

Much love.

Announcement

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. ❤

How Far Gone Is Too Far Gone? An Open Letter to the Prodigal I Forgot

Gosh. How long has it been? A little over three years, I think, since we last talked, and probably two years since the last time you crossed my mind. A little over seven years, I think, since I first started praying for you, and about four years since I stopped. And almost exactly five years since I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with you.

Until about two weeks ago, it never once occurred to me that you might think about and check in on me, although with me having a public platform, I suppose it’s easy enough for you to do. You said you were done and you seemed like you were done, and I guess I believed you more than I thought I did at the time, because in all of those searches of “Lydia Thomas blog” my analytics tell me have brought people to my blog, I never once thought it might be you.

I just … have not prayed for you or thought about you in years. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

I don’t say all that to make you feel small. I say it so you understand that for three years, I lived the pain. I cried myself to sleep over it more nights than I can count. I prayed, pleaded with God, and finally, railed at God in absolute rage. And I laid flat on my back, numb, until He extended a hand and pulled me up. And since then, it doesn’t hurt me anymore.

But I understand – I understand – it’s your turn now. I find myself both sorry for what you are experiencing right now, and not sorry at all. Sorry, because it’s got to hurt like hell, and not sorry at all, because you finally looked down.

You see, about six months after I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with you, I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with some other people who were involved as well. On the day I went to them, the preacher talked about how our society doesn’t like to feel pain and he brought up a medical condition called neuropathy, that is, a condition that causes people to lose their sense of feeling. In illustrating his the condition, I remember he said, “These people could be walking across a field of glass and be bleeding to death and not even know it.” And completely unbidden, a thought came to my mind, Unless someone tells them to look down.

And after that, when I would pray for you, I would ask God that you would just look down. I had a vision of myself standing on the edge of that field, pleading with you to turn around, and you laughed at me, because you were fine. “You’re bleeding!” I cried, but you laughed again. “If I was bleeding,” you said. “I would know it.” And as a last ditch effort, I pleaded, “Just look down.” Because if you would just look down, you would know you were bleeding out.

And I often tell people, that vision turned into a blog post, and then into an allegorical short story, and then into a novella. One of the hardest plot decisions I had to make was whether one of the characters who had spent most of the story in a forbidden field would look down or not, and what would happen when she did. Would she stay in the field or would she come out?

I’m not going to tell you what happened with her, but I want to tell you, what you’re experiencing right now? It means you’ve looked down, and you’re seeing everything is not good, you are not good. And now, you have a choice to make: keep pretending like nothing is wrong and press on or come out and begin the healing process.

And me? I’ve come back to the place where I was five years ago: the edge of the field. Why? I am here for you, no longer begging and pleading, but cheering. you. on. Because where you’ve been is not good enough for you, no matter how much you tell yourself it is. Because even though there’s not hope for this one thing you’ve been secretly been holding on to, there is hope for you. So I’m here to cheer you on, through every painstaking step out of the field, through everything you think you have to lose, through the cleansing of those old wounds, until you can say, “I’m good,” and it’s true.

“But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

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(Photo Credit: Three Rivers Deep)

 

 

Cheap Change

Sophie Scholl was a German student and revolutionary, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans on February 18,1943. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine on February 22, 1943.

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Her final words: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sophie’s life and how willing she was to stand against the evil taking place in her own country, even up to the point of her own death. She serves as a reminder that we are not obligated to the status quo, to think and do things simply because almost everyone else is. But she also serves as a reminder that the status quo does not like to be challenged, and resisting it comes at a cost.

It seems, as I scroll through my social media feeds, we have become obsessed with the concept of change. I say the concept of change because many people are talking about change, and looking to public figures to effect change. We say we want change, but we often want someone else to make it, and we certainly want someone else to shoulder the cost.

I wonder how many of us are actually willing to look at our own lives and do anything differently that would effect change in our own lives and the lives of the people around us. I wonder if it’s because we don’t feel empowered to stand up and do things differently as individuals, or if it’s because we’re complacent, or if we’re just lazy.

This year, I’ve had to ask myself this (and I challenge you to ask it of yourself): “If I want change, am I willing to do things differently? And if I do things differently, am I willing to absorb the cost?”

Voting is important. It’s one of the ways we are privileged to effect change here in the United States. But. It’s only one way. The best, most effective changes are made close to home: the ones that come from our hearts, that change our lives, our families, our communities, our jobs, our churches. The ones where we decide it doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing, this – this is how we will live our lives.

And if we’re being honest, those are not hard decisions to make here in the United States. We are not likely to be killed, tortured, or imprisoned for thinking or doing things differently. At most, we might be criticized and lose friends. A time may come when that’s not the case, a time when rising up against a tide of evil for what we know is right will cost us more and more and more.

So it’s important that now, while we are still free to choose with relative comfort, to get out of the habit of thinking and doing anything because we think everyone else is doing it, and get into the habit of thinking and doing what we know to be right, regardless of the cost. We must get away from the idea that change is big and always at a grand level, when often it is behavior by behavior at the individual level.

If we want to see more generosity, let us be more generous.

If we want to see more accountability, let us make ourselves accountable.

If we want to see a better work ethic in this generation, let us work harder, and for things that matter.

If we want to see a healthier environment and economy, let our personal decisions reflect that desire.

But let’s abandon the idea that change is up to everyone else. Because it’s not. It’s up to us.

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How will YOU burn?

#GetOutoftheField: Disordered Eating

Did you know this week is National Eating Disorders Week here in the United States?

ANAD says that “up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S” and “eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.” Like so much else, EDs are highly appealing, but the pay-off is destruction, and if left untreated, death.

Disordered eating offers the promise of finally being acceptable to others in how we look and what we eat. It offers the promise of finally having control over this one little thing, when we’ve had to sit back and take too much for too long.

But it’s a lie.

Instead of being accepted, we find ourselves slaves to the standards and expectations of others. Soon, we adopt those standards and expectations as our own, and though we think we are still in control, we’ve actually surrendered. Make no mistake, those standards and expectations dictate when we eat, what we eat and how much, and who we eat it with.

And while we make ourselves slaves to what we think we should be, we’re destroying ourselves.

Among many other health risks, National Eating Disorders lists heart failure first for both anorexia and bulimia. Binge-eating produces many of the same health risks as obesity, such as Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

The unfortunate thing is that too many people have died and will continue to die, enslaved in the thinking that they need to be something else. They won’t even see it coming. And that – that is exactly what our enemy wants: our destruction and death. Our bodies were not made for this kind of abuse, and they cannot – will not – withstand it.

Our bodies were created by God to be His dwelling place. He wants us to know how intricate our bodies are, how absolutely breathtaking and awesome. He wants us to treat our bodies like the miraculous works of art they are, not be taken in and ruled by a lie about what they should or should not be. He wants us to have life, full and free.

Family and friends, often disordered eaters are among the last to understand the harm in what we are doing. Please educate yourselves on the signs of disordered eating and the best ways to help a loved one fighting an eating disorder. Sadly, we are not always in a place where we can hear you, so take time to learn about recovery options and resources.

If you’re battling an eating disorder, you are not alone, and you cannot make it alone. Let your family and friends into your struggle and let them help you, even if they don’t do it perfectly. Take advantage of what is available for your recovery, even if you don’t do it perfectly. It’s going to be a battle, and at some point, you’ll go from survivor to fighter, and from fighter to winner, so don’t give up on yourself.

Much love. ❤

 

In honor of my #KidsMin bestie…

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Everybody, meet Beth. I met Beth about twelve years ago when my family was preparing to move to Texas. Her family had to Texas from Georgia. (She still talks about going back to Georgia. Crazy kid.) Having been involved in the same church and many of the same ministries for several years, we became fast friends, and today, although we don’t get to talk or hang out often, I’d say she’s one of my closest friends.

Of the many things we’ve done together, one of my favorites is children’s ministry. We’ve been fellow Sunday school teachers, Bible club leaders, and VBS leaders/volunteers. Beth has great vision for everything she takes on – just out-of-this-world and imaginative – something the kiddos love, not to mention the artistic teams she supervises. (Seriously, I wish I had pictures to show of the VBS themes she’s executed and how she decorates her classrooms. If you’re ever running low on ideas, I highly recommend checking her out on Pinterest. She is awesome.) She’s does an amazing job leading the kids in music, taking the time to help them understand and be excited about what they’re singing. Although she’s a few years younger than me, she is always inspiring me to think bigger.

And so, when God laid it on my heart to undertake writing a curriculum from the book of Proverbs after teaching some littles a lesson on Solomon a little over two years ago, Beth was actually the first person I talked to about it. And when Small, But Wise was ready yesterday morning, she was the first person I sent the link to. Of course, I sent her the link to the corresponding Pinterest board, too, because we’re both Pinterest junkies. I really wanted to share it with someone who has been in the trenches with me before anyone else, and so I did.

Along with Beth, I’ve been thinking about children’s ministry life, so I thought I’d share some things that have made the trenches a little bit easier, more robust, and adaptable.

Picture Bible(s). Consider purchasing a picture Bible. It’s good to have something for your visual learners. My personal favorite is The Children’s Bible from Golden Press, but I also recently picked up God’s Love for You, a Bible storybook by Rich and Renee Stearns (the World Vision people). If a picture Bible isn’t an option, look for visual aides on Pinterest or Google Images and show them to your students on your smart device.

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Bible Coloring and Activity Books. Yes, there are TONS of craft and activity ideas out there, but believe me, for those times when life comes up and you don’t have time or energy for activity and craft prep, a coloring or activity sheet is a perfectly acceptable fallback. I like Zondervan’s The Beginner’s Bible SUPER DUPER MIGHTY JUMBO Coloring and Activity books because you can run off copies royalty-free for classroom use.

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Have the basics on hand. Children’s ministry crafting staples include: construction paper, poster board, yarn, beads, scissors, glue, crayons, markers, and colored pencils.

Start collecting children’s ministry crafting fodder. You know, cartons, paper and styrofoam products, newspaper, and cardboard tubes. The sky is the limit with crafts when you have supplies on hand.

The dollar store is your best resource for craft materials. The goal with crafts is to help students develop fine motor skills while expressing creativity, so the materials don’t have to expensive or high-quality.

Get on Pinterest. After today, y’all are going to think Pinterest is paying me to talk about them so much, but there are millions of ideas on there for every kind of craft, activity, and project imaginable. Many pins link to additional website and blog resources, like most of the pins on the Small, But Wise board link back to the curriculum.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, find yourself a ministry buddy. Find someone to share thoughts and ideas with. It doesn’t have to be someone at your church, though that can be helpful. Beth and I haven’t been in church together for about two years now (and it was on and off even before that), but I still feel comfortable approaching her when I need someone to chat with.

You may not know me from Adam, but I am always here as well. To prevent spam, I shut comments down on posts after two weeks, but you can always visit my “about” page or email me at lydia.evelyn.thomas@gmail.com. I am thrilled to chat and answer any questions you might have, children’s ministry-related or not.

Be blessed, and happy Thursday!

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(And since it’s Throwback Thursday, here’s this oldie-and-terribly-unflattering-but-goodie)