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 Life. And 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!
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.
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.”
Seeds need time.
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.
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