It is really hard to move slowly.
It is a fast paced world we live in, a pace that can seem to be out of our own control. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the passenger seat, with a driver who is pushing the accelerator closer and closer to the floor. Which, drives my anxiety closer and closer to the roof with every twist and turn that appears on life’s road ahead.
It exhausts me just to think about it. I am inundated with messages of making the most of the moments, reminders of how brief my time is and the importance of establishing a legacy. Some days it is hard enough to survive the moments of the day, let alone strategically purposing them for legacy.
I often think this, “I just don’t have time to slow down.”
It is true. I do not have time. I do not have possession of it, I am not entitled to it nor can I contain time in any way. Time is something I am given moment by moment, gifted to me by the One God who is not limited or contained by the constraints of time.
To truly live the life I have been called to live, in the time God gives me, I will need His strength, His direction and His provision.
We are called to sow seeds.
I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of the seed analogy. Gardening and planting are two words that send chills down my spine. I would rather scrub a square mile of tile flooring on my hands and knees than go out and plant a garden. Play in soap, yes. Play in dirt, yuck.
I apologize to all of the wonderful gardeners out there. The ones who are energized and savor their time in the soil. Honestly, I respect the hard work that you do and the fruits, grains and vegetables of your labor. They are incredible. I am glad you delight in it. May God richly bless the work of your hands.
I recently read in one of the Psalms that insight comes from meditation, so I have been meditating on sowing seeds. Often times, my pondering sends me to word definitions.
What does it mean to sow? The dictionary in my study Bible says to sow is “to scatter seeds in planting a crop; to cause a given effect.” Webster.com defines sow as, “planting seeds for future growth, to set something in motion or to introduce to a selected environment.”
Future growth. Set something in motion. Introduce. Cause. All things that indicate the beginning of a process. Nothing instant here. How contrary this is to the immediacy we desire in so many areas of our fruit focused, result oriented, lives.
A seed is a tiny developing plant usually enclosed in a protective coating. It is the hope of future growth. Under suitable conditions, in the right environment, it can sprout, develop and mature into so much more offering leaves, flowers, and fruit for the nourishment and enjoyment of many others. Not to mention producing a plethora of new seeds which can be sown into new selected environments.
Do you ever feel like people expect you to show what you produce, but never give you the opportunity to share what you planted?
I do not know how you respond to that question, but it breaks my heart. I do not produce a lot, in fact, I feel like I am producing less and less with each passing year. At the same time I feel like I am becoming a much better sower, and am learning so much about how & when to plant seeds.
Several years ago, I left the working world that I was a part of to give intense focus to my children during their middle school and high school years. There are so many seeds that I was yearning to plant in their lives. Seeds that are extremely precious and time consuming in their care.
It was something I have felt very called to do, even though the work I did was important and rewarding. I needed to plant these seeds slowly, tenderly, and give them a lot of time. As the mother of my children, it is my responsibility to raise them up. What I sow into them could be the largest contribution that I make in my lifetime to offer goodness into this world.
I hope the fruit of my labor will produce an incredible man and an amazing woman who will love sacrificially, be compassionate, give generously, communicate well, lead by example, have an enduring perseverance through pain and be kind even in harsh circumstances. That is the hope I hold for my children as a mother.
I fully acknowledge that the choices they make in life will be their own. I can not control or shape the fruit that comes in any way in their lives. This fact makes me pray desperately for my son and my daughter. It also makes me take very seriously what I sow into their lives and how I sow it.
My children, while of the utmost importance to me, are not the sole purpose of my entire life. Mother is one of the roles I play and an ever changing role at that. I am a woman of faith, an encourager, a wife, a sister, a friend, a writer and probably twenty five other roles.
I am not a stay at home mom 100% of the time. I substitute teach at our elementary school. I think it is one of the coolest jobs. I get to offer teachers and students encouragement, and meet a need they have all while getting the opportunity to bring in a bit of money to financially help my family, easing some of the burden my beloved husband carries.
The teachers we have at our school are absolutely incredible! They are so passionate, talented, and strong. They work really hard to not be gone from their classrooms, so when they are, it is for important reasons. I do not take that lightly. It is a honor to substitute teach and I do my best to be the best for the students, teachers and staff that I work with.
If you were to ask me, I would say that it is my role as a mom, planting those vital seeds, that is my primary job right now. It is my focus. But that is not what others say, so many, even close family members, will tell others I am “just a substitute teacher.”
Ouch. That hurts. The word “just” is probably what pierces most sharply. Out of all the things I do, all of the seeds I plant, it is the product which brings short term financial results that is highlighted. That is my label. I do not even get the privilege and honor of being a stay at home mom. I guess that is because I am not home all the time.
Trying Hard and Taking it Personally
It is very challenging to me to be known more for what I produce than for what I sow. I pour energy, effort and expense into sowing. It is true, much of what I have sown is still incubating below the surface. Many of the seeds planted may even be in a dormant period right now.
I have gone through several periods where I really did strive to produce as much as I could. I was pushing and working and struggling. One of my worst examples was a volunteer leadership role that I held. It started as assisting with a few things. I tried to back out of assisting because I didn’t feel right for the role.
Suddenly, the leader who I was helping stepped down completely. So instead of getting out, I ended up getting further involved. For a while things were really incredible. God provided and, wow, there was fruit. It was a good opportunity to teach my kids to give and for me to serve others in my community. Then there were some major changes to the staff of the organization I was volunteering for.
The volunteering position that I was in changed almost immediately. I was told very directly that I was not needed in certain ways any longer. The new staff member would oversee those areas and needed no explanation of what I had been doing. That was hard to swallow. I tried to hold to the opportunity to learn more, grow more and try harder to be better.
I took every suggestion from anyone in the sphere of influence of the organization and tried my best to make it a reality. Hard work got harder. Time given increased. I even started taking some classes that I was hoping would improve my skill set. Energy drained and emotions rose. I was trying so hard to make it fun and easy and rewarding to volunteers under my leadership as a part of the organization, but I kept losing volunteers.
I am sure you can imagine, this did not positively affect my home and family. The way I was sowing seeds, the number & quality sown, diminished greatly.
Then came another major staff change to the organization. It is just a reality that as staff change happens, new people will bring different personalities, ideas, passions and experiences to the work. All I had in my head was that the last staff change did not go well. I asked myself how could I handle things better this time.
Try harder I did. Be more personal, be upfront, be generously giving. I thought this would be good things to help with the transition. I left my first meeting with the new staff person with a knot in my stomach. In hindsight, I should have given that more consideration than I did, but I thought it was more exhaustion at the thought of more change than an alarm bell going off.
Plus I really wanted to prove that I could persevere. I tried really hard to adapt and make more changes to what I was doing and how. I added another handful of responsibilities to my plate. I was really trying to please and striving to produce good things.
It kept getting harder and harder. I tried several times to share my feelings and struggles with people close to me. I was repeatedly brushed off. I was told that so many good things were going on that I just needed to look around. It was amazing and awesome, or so they said.
I dropped the classes I was in. I just could not continue. My home and family continued to suffer, with greater impact on each member. As I look back now on my journal from this period, I see my scribbles, “Lord, please help me to be better. Please I don’t like me like this.” and “I feel like a prized moron. No peace. No joy. Just busyness. Poor execution on my part. There’s just a huge level of self disappointment surging through me today.” Worst of all, “I’m so sorry for being a yucky person.”
What I pour out is so personal to me and so dear to my heart, that I tend to take feedback, criticisms and comments made very personally. Plus, my love language is off the charts words of affirmation. Words go deep and stick around a long time. I confess that I let things said just haunt me, especially when I am tired and not taking good care of myself. I can be just a mental mess sometimes.
I found it so hard to receive positive comments and so easy to take in the negative reactions. I let gossip get to me. I took everything way too personally. Every negative comment felt like a burning branding of failure slammed against my soul. I could have sworn that everything I did was looked down upon by the staff member with stern brow and shaking head.
I was trying too hard and taking it too hard. I was a broken mess when I wrote my resignation letter. I tried to wrap things up neatly and respectfully as I stepped down, but I am not sure I accomplished that. Feeling unheard, I started to say less and less, until I completely removed myself from the organization, hoping it would benefit all involved.
I know looking back that God’s strength was really upon me in that role for a while. I just wish I knew when that strength left, and could have made a less messy exit. I know there was a point where I stopped focusing on the seeds that I was planting and started fixating on fruit which I was not even capable of producing. I truly regret that I did not see it coming, and that I did not realize when it had arrived.
Sow in Peace
“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 (NIV)
“Goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace” James 3:18 (Message)
Sow in peace. Plant in peace. Go slowly. Do not rush. Take the time to find the right environment to plant those precious seeds in. Allow them the time they need to develop and grow. Be purposeful in the planting and not fixated on the fruit.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126:5-6 (NIV)
As I ponder these verses together I wonder, can we have tears while we sow and still sow in peace?
I wish I had a straightforward answer for all of us on this question, but I am still wrestling with it myself. I would like to say yes, that even if we are crying while we are sowing, we can still sow in peace.
I guess when I imagine this, I picture being down on my hands and knees in the dirt while large, plump tears slowly build in the corner of my eyes and push their way down my cheek, falling upon fresh pressed dirt as if to water that which was just sown. Perhaps the peace comes upon the release of the pain, surrendering it to the hope that a new seed can bring.
Surely seeds sown in surrendered tears must be sown slowly.
I am so sorry for all of the ways that I have fixated on fruit and poured my passion into the pursuit of produce instead of slowly sowing seeds in peace filled surrender. Lord, I am sorry for the missed opportunities and the situations that I have just made a mess of.
Lord, I pray a blessing over all of my readers. Help us to slowly and purposefully sow the seeds that You would like us to plant in this world. May the teachers sow seeds of knowledge and zest for learning. May the farmers and gardeners sow seeds of nutrition and nourishment. May the mechanics and engineers sow seeds of innovation and collaboration. May the caregivers sow seeds of compassion and gentleness.
May the leaders sow seeds of vision and inspiration. May the at home parents sow seeds of love and grace. May the financial professionals sow seeds of consideration and discernment. May the artists sow seeds of creativity and vibrant color. May the administrative assistants sow seeds of organization and order. May those in ministry sow seeds of the good news and discipleship.
Lord, for all of the different kinds of planters, with their wide variety of seeds, please help us to sow slowly, with purpose and care, keep our eyes from fixating on fruit and trying to rush the process along.
In the slow and steady name of Jesus, with thanks for all the seeds He slowly sows. Amen.