I have a treat–and a first–for you today, friends!

In my upcoming book, Cultivate, I share something I have learned in the garden: “I always thought it was unattainable, this elusive thing called “balance.” But as I’ve observed my garden over the years, I have noticed something. In the seasons, we find balance. The seasons allow my garden to rest and grow at just the right times, and it’s the same with our lives. The seasons teach us how to do life well, revealing a life-giving rhythm: we flourish through intentional periods of stillness, growth, hard work, and rest. We need this rhythm in our days, in our weeks, and in our everything.” – Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional LifeAnd challenging seasons–seasons of doubt, grief, transition, and waiting–can become unexpected gifts.

My friend, Elizabeth Thompson, was a prayer warrior and great encouragement as I wrote Cultivate right in the middle of one of the hardest seasons of my life. I’ve known Elizabeth for many years and her husband played a part in helping Ari grow his faith. She also happens to be an incredible writer, and after reading her new book, When God Says “Wait,” I knew you would be blessed by her too. So, here’s a first on my twelve-year-old blog: a guest post!

cultivate-book-text-lara-casey

My seven-year-old holds up an apple core, eyes shining. “Mommy, I have decided to be a farmer.”

I raise an amused eyebrow. “Oh really?”

“Yes!” She is breathless with excitement. “I’m going to plant the seeds I got out of my apple”—she opens her palm, revealing a pile of shiny brown seeds—“and they are going to grow into trees so we can eat free apples and save money.”

I swallow my skepticism—Can you actually grow apple trees from seeds taken directly from an apple? Don’t they have to pass through a bird’s digestive tract or something disgusting like that?—and try to mirror her enthusiasm: “Oh, that sounds great, Sweetie! Let’s plant them in the pots out back.” But even as I speak, my heart gives a painful squeeze, because first: She knows I’ve been worried about money and she’s trying to help. And then: Please God let these seeds grow. I’d hate to see her disappointed.

So we head outside and Little Farmer presses her seeds into three pots on our back deck. And then we wait. And wait. And wait some more.

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Meanwhile, life is happy but hard. We—my preacher husband, four young kids and I—are alone in a new town. We are struggling to start a church, find friends, forge a new life from nothing. Money is tight. The kids always sick. The rental house mildewy.

I feel stuck on pause, waiting to feel less lonely. Less inadequate. Less homesick. I’m waiting for life to change. Get better. Get easier. I pray, I read, I do my part—as much as I can figure out my part, anyway—and I wait for God to do His. I know He’s planted us here, I know He is doing things in us, growing things in us, but most days it’s hard to see.

Still the little apple seeds rest underground, hidden from view, and Little Farmer starts to get anxious: “Are my seeds growing? Is anything happening?” The first week, she keeps plucking the seeds out of the dirt to check their progress.

“Honey, you can’t take the seeds out once they’re planted,” I tell her, laughing. “They can’t grow if you keep bothering them. Seeds need time.”

Time.

Seeds need time.

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The lesson hits me hard. I’m not sure if I want to laugh or cry.

God has uprooted me and my family and planted us in unfamiliar soil. He has initiated several beginnings in our lives—new church, new friendships, new baby, fast-growing kids, slow-growing careers—but right now there’s no evidence of growth.

Like my daughter, I’ve been impatient. I keep digging in the dirt, yanking up these seeds God has planted, holding them up to the light, scrutinizing them for sprouts, swelling, any sign of progress: Why are we still lonely? Why isn’t money getting easier? Why does my career feel stalled? Why is life so HARD?

But it’s too early yet. Whatever God is doing, it’s still small, still subtle, still internal—all invisible to the human eye. And I realize that the waiting, the inertia, the stalls, the in-between, it’s all part of God’s plan. Part of His process. I need to stop obsessing, stop trying to rush God’s methods. I need to stop pulling His seeds out of the dirt to study them. I need to relax and rest and let Him do His thing, as long as it takes.

And that’s not all. God hasn’t just planted seeds in my life—He has planted me. I myself am a seed. His seed. I am lying in the dark, covered in dirt. Waiting for God to reveal more of His plan, to grant relief and grace and growth to help us through this painful season. And a scripture springs to mind: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John12:24).

My Little Farmer’s seeds need their time in the darkness. Their time to wait for death—the moment they cease becoming seeds so they can become something bigger. Something better. If they aren’t buried, if they don’t die, they’ll never be reborn. They’ll stay stuck—forever dormant, forever seeds.

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But I’ve been fighting it, the burial, the darkness, the death. I want out. I want light. I want fruit. I don’t want to be an inconsequential seed facing death and change and transformation. In fact, I don’t want to be a seed at all—I want to go straight to being a tree, tall and impressive and fruitful.

But I’m not a tree yet—in fact, I’m not even a sprout. And there’s nothing I can do to skip all the steps between. There is a growth process, one God designed with infinite wisdom and care. Against my will, I realize, I have to trust His process.

And that means being okay with waiting.

It means being okay with burial, with periods of darkness and confusion. Times of frustration—I can’t find the guy, can’t catch a break, can’t get pregnant. Times of disappointment—I can’t find a friend, can’t conquer debt, can’t kick this weakness. Times of heartbreak—I can’t turn back time, can’t move back home, can’t bring back my little lost baby.

It means being okay with death—dying to my old ways, my own plans, my old self (Luke 9:23–25)—because one of these days, God will turn death to life.

One warm afternoon, my Little Farmer sprints into the house shrieking: “My seeds are growing, my seeds are growing!” The whole family rushes outside and sure enough, nine baby sprouts are nudging out of darkness, reaching for light.

The family cheers and I’m pretty sure God is having a chuckle at my expense. The little apple seeds have made it—survived their days in the dark, their first small death—and God, wise Designer, gentle Farmer, has called them forth. Brought life from death. The little seedlings have many difficulties ahead—autumn is coming, then winter and frost—but their first hurdle has been conquered. Their first wait has ended. And I know my time in the light is coming, too. I’m not sure when, but these seeds give me hope.

I don’t know what you are waiting for, what you are suffering through—growing through—but I pray you find comfort in these words. Hope. Even when we are suffocating in darkness, staring down death, we can take heart knowing that a good Farmer is watching over us.

In His time and with His help, we will see growth and hope and light again. If we’ll stop checking for progress and make peace with His process—more, if we can find comfort in the Farmer’s great love for us—then one day, like my Little Farmer’s seeds, we will unfurl from the dirt and stretch in the sun. We will laugh in His light. And the Farmer will continue to protect us, prune us, and nurture us until we grow tall and strong, bearing seeds and fruit of our own.

Whew!!! Friends! Didn’t that bless your socks off? Thank you, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Laing Thompson is the author of When God Says “Wait”: Navigating Life’s Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind. She writes at LizzyLife.com about finding humor in holiness and hope in heartache. Elizabeth lives in North Carolina with her preacher husband and four spunky kids, and they were totally worth the wait. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are you in a season of waiting? What is God teaching you in this season? What do you hope He will grow in you?

Photos in the garden by Gina Zeidler

17 Show Comments
  1. Chalyse Meiklejohn

    Ohhhhh this hit me hard. We’re in a season of waiting that’s longer than I ever thought it would be and I keep wondering when God will hurry up and grow me so we can get out of this. Thank you for this reminder!

    • Elizabeth Thompson

      Chalyse, I SO feel your pain on those waiting seasons that last longer than you ever imagined. I hope this gives you some encouragement as you work and fight and cry and trust through the challenges! Sending you love and hugs!

  2. Em

    I love this so much. It’s so encouraging to see others share about God working in the waiting times. So often we do think nothing is going on if we don’t see things immediately on the surface—but that is when He is doing the hard, deep work. Thanks for sharing Elizabeth

    • Elizabeth Thompson

      I’m such a “need-to-see-it-to-believe-it” person, but I’m slowly accepting that God’s work is often hidden to my human eyes and my limited here-and-now perspective! It’s been so comforting to realize that He is working even when I can’t see it—and when nothing seems to change for long dormant seasons!

    • Katie @ A Place to Dwell

      I’ve been thinking about that so much this week! How it often feels like He’s doing nothing, because we can’t SEE anything. Whew, it’s a growing time in our faith for sure.

  3. Megan

    Thank you so much for this! I’m currently in what seems like a LONG season of waiting. We’re waiting for a baby and seeking help through fertility treatments. I just experienced an early miscarriage and my heartbreaks everyday with questions and prayers to God asking him for answers and seeking His plan for my life. It’s in the quiet that I feel the weight of this struggle and I seem to cry endless tears of pain and confusion. Reaching for God in this time is the only thing I can hold on to at this point.

    • Elizabeth Thompson

      Oh Megan, I am SO sad to hear about your loss. My husband and I walked a very long road of infertility, and we also lost a baby to early miscarriage. I have never stopped loving and missing that baby. I had so many questions for God–”Why? Why us? Do you even hear our prayers?”… I am praying for you, that you feel God’s presence and comfort and LOVE during such a dark and confusing time. Lamentations 3 was my saving verse during those years. Sending you lots of love and prayer. <3

  4. Brianna

    Ohhh man. This is good stuff. Exactly what I needed. I’m going to print this out and stick it my Bible where I can keep coming back to it. :)

  5. Elizabeth Thompson

    Oh Megan, I am SO sad to hear about your loss. My husband and I walked a very long road of infertility, and we also lost a baby to early miscarriage. I have never stopped loving and missing that baby. I had so many questions for God–”Why? Why us? Do you even hear our prayers?”… I am praying for you, that you feel God’s presence and comfort and LOVE during such a dark and confusing time. Lamentations 3 was my saving verse during those years. Sending you lots of love and prayer. <3

  6. Kelly

    wow! that was such a blessing, thank you for sharing, i neede those words!

  7. Katie @ A Place to Dwell

    Oh goodness, do I love this post! Thank you Lara and Elizabeth for sharing! :)
    I am absolutely in a season of waiting…waiting for healing from heartbreak…waiting for God to fulfill my dream for a Godly relationship that leads to a Godly marriage. And it’s been such a long wait so far… :) I am learning the pain of pruning in this season, but also the hope and comfort of rooting myself in Him and surrendering every hope and dream and prayer for Him to use and answer as He sees fit. It’s hard, quiet work. I loved these words in today’s post: “I keep digging in the dirt, yanking up these seeds God has planted, holding them up to the light, scrutinizing them for sprouts, swelling, any sign of progress…” I am confident that this desire I have for marriage, these seeds of hope to be part of a team for His Kingdom are absolutely from Him. But goodness do I keep yanking them out of the dirt and wondering why, oh why, is it taking so LONG? :) Waiting is just plain hard, but so much of our life is spent waiting, isn’t it? Thank you for the encouragement today to make peace with His process. Rather than fighting the process, I want to praise Him for it. Because I know that so much good will come out of this hard season. Thank you again! :)

    • Elizabeth Thompson

      Hi Katie, Oh, waiting for a godly man is such a difficult struggle, because of course so many of our other life dreams hang on that one first coming true, don’t they? I love what you said about these waiting seasons, these in-between times, being “hard, quiet work.” I’m so glad you are seeing God there in the middle, there in the quiet, there in the difficulty. I pray you feel His guidance and comfort and love every step of the way! Sending love, admiration, and hugs your way!

  8. Christy

    Needed this so much! I’m currently waiting on a hard season of my marriage to pass. I’m frustrated with feeling hopeless and disappointed that progress isn’t happening faster. Trusting the Master Gardener is the ONLY thing that is getting me through this hard time. Thank you for your words, Elizabeth!

    • Elizabeth Thompson

      Oh my goodness, Christy, we have had some of those tough seasons in our marriage, too. I’m glad you are clinging to God through it, and I hope you feel His eyes paying you extra special attention right now! I love Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted…” The harder life gets and the more our hearts hurt, the closer He leans in! What a comfort. Sending you love and prayers!

  9. Ashley Ziegler

    I’m most definitely in a waiting season and it’s been extremely difficult! Not really feeling like I have any signs or answers from God on exactly how long I’m waiting or why but I just know that I am and it’s long and hard but each day I find myself still waiting.