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.”

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

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.

It Doesn’t All Have to Happen Right Now

Good gravy, y’all. Moving is no joke. (And I’m not even done yet). Yesterday, I moved my things from my temporary residence to my new apartment, and then on Saturday, I’m bringing the rest of my stuff from Texas. Good thing I’m not planning on doing this again anytime soon.

In the hustle and bustle that was yesterday, as I kept thinking about all of the things I needed to do and get for my new place, there was this little voice in the back of my mind, It doesn’t all have to happen right now, Lydia.

And that ended up being a good thing, because I spent 45 minutes putting up a shower curtain rod. Not the shower curtain. The rod. (I mean, seriously, who needs directions? Not this girl. Obviously.)

By the time I finished with that, I literally crashed. If you’re wondering, my plan today involves a nap before I even think about doing anything else. And that will be okay. It’s not like my apartment is going anywhere.

Anyway, with everything else going on, I managed to squeeze in our mid-week prayer meeting and Bible study at church, and I’m so glad I did. God knew exactly what I needed.

During our prayer time, I was talking to God about something personal, something I’d like right now, and if not right now, as soon as possible. And again, I heard that voice: It doesn’t all have to happen right now, Lydia. But I wasn’t listening. Not really, anyway.

Then, during Bible study, my pastor taught on Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4, and he brought up something really profound, which I will attempt to paraphrase without completely butchering it. Basically, he said that Satan was trying to get Jesus to short circuit God’s plan by offering Him something more immediate.

I know, right?

It doesn’t all have to happen right now, Lydia. In fact, what you’re asking Me for right now would cause pain and confusion if I did it right now. You need to wait.  

This seems to be a theme in my life, the waiting. (I blame my Dad, who has prayed the Greek word hypomeno over my life since I was a little girl.) But it’s a different kind of waiting than I’ve done in the past, which usually consists of waiting in prayer. I mean, I still do that with lots of things, but with this particular situation, God seems to be directing me to wait to even ask. There will be a time to ask, but … this is not the time.

And, you know, that’s okay. My life is brimming right now as it is. I am blessed as God has brought me to the next level in life, ministry, and work, and so I’m just going to be in that right now.

 “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4 NIV).

Of Redwoods

Many years ago, I asked God to make me a Redwood. (Figuratively, of course).

I had just finished Charles Stanley’s How to Handle Adversity, where he says this: “Nature clearly demonstrates that the things that grow the strongest usually grow slowly. Only weeds and toadstools pop up overnight.”

For a season, from my late teens through my early twenties, my Dad would frequently confront me about taking the easy way out. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, because my life was anything but easy. One time, he phrased it a little bit differently: given the choice, I would take the path of least resistance.

Pfft.  No joke.  Who wouldn’t?

According to Charles Stanley, the strongest things in nature wouldn’t, that’s who.

At the time, Redwoods were about the strongest thing in nature I could think of, so I did some research.

Redwoods boast some of the world’s tallest trees, but it takes them time to get there. Some of these trees are upwards of 2,000 years old.

Redwoods can sprout in just about any conditions, as long as they have adequate moisture. (Which is not to say there aren’t ideal conditions for Redwood growth).

Things that absolutely ravage other trees – like disease and insects and fire – cannot get to Redwoods. Tannic acid and thick bark protect them.

If a Redwood falls, it can still provide nourishment to other Redwoods (Nursery Trees) through it’s root system.

Redwoods are resilient little buggers, and I decided I wanted to be like them.

That’s why I asked God to make me a Redwood.  Honestly, though, I haven’t thought much about Redwoods or the prayer since that season.

A few weeks ago, Emily Rose Lewis wrote a post about turtles – well, not turtles, exactly, but rather how God has used turtles to communicate His heart with her.  Almost immediately, I began to pray that God would show me my turtle, and I kept my eyes peeled.

I’ve been feeling isolated lately. As I wrote last week, much of this is my own doing, and I hate having found myself here. So I’m taking steps out of isolation. I know this is not God’s intention for me – this isolation – but I wanted to hear it from Him.

Driving home from work the night I wrote that post, I was flipping through stations on my radio, and landed on Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  I was about to flip the station again, when she says, “You know, I learned an interesting fact about Redwoods recently.”  She went on to explain that one would think Redwood roots are really deep for their height, but they only extend down six-to-twelve feet.  Instead, Redwood roots spread out several dozen feet so they become entangled with each other.  By and large, it’s how they stay standing.

Being a fact-checker by nature (and cynical about too many preachers and teachers in Evangelical Christendom not doing their fact-checking before spreading stuff around that just sounds good), and because I hadn’t gleaned this during my initial research five years ago, I did some more research.

Apparently, I just missed it the first time, because every site talks about it.

Maybe I was too focused on the lessons of patience, persevering through adversity, being strong, and leaving an impact that I couldn’t see the lesson on community. Maybe God knew I would need that particular lesson more last week than I did five years ago.

Either way, Charles Stanley is right: “the strongest things in nature grow slowly.”

You want to know something else? They grow together, too.

 

 

 

A Waiting Analogy

Let’s say you’re about to make yourself a sandwich with a side of apple slices and a tall glass of water.

“Wait,” says your mom, “I’m making your very favorite meal in just a little bit.”

So you put all of the stuff for your sandwich away, because it’s your mom and you believe her, and you’d rather wait for your favorite meal anyway.

Several hours pass, and you’re getting hungry again.  Well, to be honest, you never stopped being hungry to begin with, you were just distracted by the prospect of something better.  Your mom is nowhere to be found, even though she said she was going to make your favorite meal in the world.  You’re starting to doubt whether she’ll make a meal at all, let alone your favorite.

Finally, you get tired of waiting, and you decide to make that sandwich anyway, except you open the refrigerator and discover that your little sister has used up all of the sandwich fixings on her own sandwich.  You’re a little bit angry at her, even though you reason with yourself that you shouldn’t be: after all, you’re the one who didn’t capitalize on that sandwich opportunity.  After all, what’s wrong with a sandwich? Your little sister certainly couldn’t tell you.

As you turn these hard, cold facts over in your mind, you spy a box of  crackers in the pantry.

Hmm.

You don’t particularly like crackers, and ugh, these ones happen to be filled with peanut butter of all things.  And if there is one thing you can’t abide, it’s peanut butter…on your crackers.

But there isn’t anything else.  It’s not like you can eat a sandwich.  It’s too late for that.  You just want something.

In the back of your head, however, there is this annoying thought that won’t go away: there is absolutely no nutritional value in these crackers.  They might satisfy your hunger temporarily, but they will do nothing for you, except maybe make you less hungry for your favorite meal that you’ve been promised.

You storm out of the pantry feeling jaded.  If you had known your mom was going to take this long, you would have eaten the sandwich.  No thanks to her, that option isn’t available to you anymore.

The thought occurs to you that you could make your own meal, but you know you’re not quite the cook your mom is, and it just won’t be the same.

Although your mom and the promised meal are nowhere in sight, the best thing to do is to wait for your mom to make and serve your favorite meal.  None of the other options are quite as right as that one, none will bring you the same level of satisfaction.  And you know it.

That’s why you didn’t eat the sandwich.

And that’s why you continue to hold out for that favorite meal.

And until your mom makes that meal, you have to keep reminding yourself of that.

Because, really, would your mom let you starve? Would she wittingly turn you away from something good, if she didn’t want to give you something better?

Depends on your mom, I guess. 😉